The Blacklist interview: Jon Bokenkamp teases Liz, Reddington’s season 6 ‘chess match’

The Blacklist

On Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, The Blacklist season 6 will officially kick off its two-night premiere and all signs suggest that this one is going to be big. Liz Keen, for starters, knows the truth about Raymond Reddington being an imposter. What she is going to do about that will effectively shape and change the remainder of the show. She’s desperate for answers, and she may need to act quickly in order to get results.

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In part 1 of our interview with show creator Jon Bokenkamp, we talk with him about this season’s thematic drive, how this is the same Reddington we’ve all come to know and love, and how he is still hoping for more beyond this season. Check back following the second episode of the season, (which airs Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern in the show’s normal timeslot) for the second half of our interview with Jon.

CarterMatt – What was your primary thematic goal going into the start of season 6?

Jon Bokenkamp – The biggest question that we were confronted with, after this reveal that Raymond Reddington is in fact an imposter, was really the question of identity. It’s been woven through the fabric of the show since day one. Reddington surrendering himself and telling Elizabeth Keen ‘I’m a criminal. Everything about me is a lie.’

There’s also a question that we’ve been asking from the beginning: Why her? Why choose Elizabeth Keen? Now, that question is even more important to her than ever. One of the things that we felt was fun to embrace was the idea that Liz is a step ahead of Red. That rarely happens with anyone and she really is in the driver’s seat, which leads to some great storytelling, some big reveals, and it really changes the dynamic between the two of them.

I know that James [Spader] has had some information about this for some time in order to form his performance, but we’re also in this position now where we know the truth. Is there any change at all when it comes to the presentation of this character?

I think one of the things that is important for fans to know is that this character is the same character. Raymond Reddington, although he is an imposter, we’ve been watching as an imposter for five years. We’ve fallen in love with this imposter. He is the same man who has the same experiences, the same crazy stories, and he’s dangerous and just as strange and funny.

The real Raymond Reddington who died in a fire many years ago probably wasn’t somebody you’d want to hang out with. He wasn’t really that interesting. The reveal doesn’t change the dynamic with viewers; the storytelling shifts, but Red’s still Red. He’s still just as fun.

How do you balance out the two story pulls? Obviously, on one side Liz is going to be doing what she can to understand who this Reddington is. Yet, on the other side you’ve got the traditional Blacklister storylines.

I still think we have some of the most interesting Blacklisters yet. I’m really excited about our core storytelling from that perspective. The thing that we’re balancing in a different way and the thing that has more weight is just the idea that Liz is in the driver’s seat. She is presenting to Reddington that she is his daughter. He doesn’t know that she has made this discovery. Every scene where they talk and every scene where there’s something emotional between them, she’s playing a role much like he is. The space between shifts and it becomes a real chess match between these two people who are playing each other.

So, everything remains the same, but in a completely different context that is driving us forward.

So how much paranoia is going to be in Liz’s mind? This is a man who finds out everything, so she has to be nervous about this.

It’s a big risk she’s taking, withholding this information. She’s part investigator, she’s part angry young woman who is betrayed. She’s racing to unravel this riddle as to why he entered her life so many years ago.

Are you approaching this season thinking that this could be the end of the show, or are you holding out hopes for a season 6?

I still have hopes for more. If season 5 was the end of our run, it would’ve been a pretty big bummer. We took a risk there before renewals were made and we made a decision that we weren’t finished telling the story and there were stories yet to come. Thank God, that paid off and we lived on to fight another day. I think the show’s as good as it’s ever been.

Related News Be sure to get some other news on what’s coming on The Blacklist!

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