LOS ANGELES >> Ryan Eggold is ready for more action in NBC’s “The Blacklist: Redemption.”
Eggold’s character, Tom Keen, grew into a key part of mothership “The Blacklist.” Now Tom and Famke Janssen’s Susan “Scottie” Hargrave are front and center in “Redemption,” two people with dark pasts who are intent on righting wrongs, not committing them.
Or so we are told as “Redemption” begins an eight-episode run 9 p.m. Thursday. But as “The Blacklist” viewers know, and Eggold helpfully points out, appearances can be deceiving in the complicated world of Keen, his wife and FBI profiler Liz (Megan Boone), and puppet master Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader).
A primer for the spinoff: Tom believes that Scottie, head of a covert mercenary group, is the mother he never knew. Scottie thinks her son died as a child. But there’s more than that to untangle, Eggold said, with “varying conspiracy theories” pitted against each other.
Edi Gathegi reprises his “Blacklist” role as slickly dangerous Matias Solomon. Also on hand is Terry O’Quinn, the “Lost” star who knows something about complicated plot lines. While Eggold says he’s been cautioned not to discuss O’Quinn’s character, he suggests it’s central to “this pursuit of the greater truth of what’s really happening.”
What Eggold can offer is that that the series plays, non-politically, off of headlines about refugees, Edward Snowden-type figures, cyberwarfare and Russia. And it has a touch of “Ocean’s Eleven” camaraderie and humor, he promises.
He had more to say in a phone interview from New York, where the series films.
QUESTION: Taking Tom to a lead character in “Redemption” must be a welcome change.
ANSWER: Acting-wise, I feel like I’m almost drawn to supporting characters in a way. If it’s going to be the lead, I’m glad it’s this character because he’s so multi-faceted and almost contradictory. … He’s a spy, and he’s an assassin and he’s a con man. And now he’s a husband, and a father, and an orphan, and trying to be a good father. And he’s learning how to be a good person after years of killing people in the middle of the jungle somewhere for some sum of money.
Q: Why do supporting roles appeal to you?
A: The hero is burdened with the responsibility of doing the right thing. The fun of this character is he was sort of an ancillary character who grew into himself, and we’re now doing this show around him. It’s a character I was excited to explore more and peel back the layers.
Q: Tom has embraced becoming a husband to Liz and dad to their baby, Agnes. How do you remain in their lives and on “Blacklist” as well as star in “Redemption”?
A: In these first eight episodes, the goal is to launch a new story and a new world and a new cast of characters. That’s the focus. And then Tom’s relationship with Liz and Agnes becomes something we’ll deal with if we’re going to continue with more episodes. … In the launching of the show, Liz gives him her blessing to pursue this mission and get at the truth of who he is, where he comes from, why he was orphaned, what really happened to him and led him to be where he is today.
Q: Janssen’s Scottie looks very young to be Tom’s mother, and there are hints she regards him in definitely non-maternal ways. How is that to play?
A: As an actor it’s very fun, because it’s so ambiguous and strange and awkward and uncomfortable — but also perhaps alluring. Then, of course, there’s the uncertainty that she is his mother. He’s been told that, and that’s the truth he’s going on. But you know that’s what ‘The Blacklist’ does: The ground is always shifting beneath your feet and we’re always putting more pieces of the puzzle into place that shift the picture.
Lynn Elber can be reached at lelberap.org and on Twitter at @lynnelber.