James Spader looks so different in the new NBC series “The Blacklist.” Was it his idea to change his appearance?
—Candace Cross, Lincoln, Nebraska
When James Spader, 53, was cast in the role of Raymond “Red” Reddington, he had very long hair, which he felt worked great for the before photos that were posted on the walls of the FBI office from when Red was a “most wanted” fugitive. But he liked the idea that when Red walks into the FBI office in Washington, D.C., to inexplicably volunteer his services to capture others on the most-wanted list, and removes his hat, he is a different man.
“I love in that opening sequence when he goes in and surrenders himself, the juxtaposition,” says the three-time Emmy Award winner for “Boston Legal.” “I also thought that [the short hair] would be nice just because actors are burdened with everything else that they’ve done before in any role that they’re playing. I thought it would be nice to take off my hat and it’s an entirely different person with a very different look to go with that.”
Another reason the Boston-born Spader came up with the idea was he believed that with Red on the run for the past 20 years, he would be moving very quickly from place to place, so he should have a haircut that he could do himself
“I just thought it was streamlined,” Spader adds. “His clothes are like that, too, in that he looks well dressed, but traveling clothes. He wears clothes that he can go from a bank to a cave and he’s dressed accordingly. He’s also been in a lot of different climates over the last 20 years, so I thought it would be appropriate that he dress and look as if he’s able to move through the world easily and comfortably.
Red’s hat was Spader’s idea as well. Executive Producer John Eisendrath says that Spader thought Red should wear a hat despite the fact that everyone else was: “No. No hat. Nobody’s going to want to see a guy with a hat.”
But Spader stuck by his instincts, saying, “‘I think he wears a hat,'” Eisdendrath recalls. “He was very insistent that his character would wear a hat. And he was totally right; I love the hat now. That was an example where he just had such a great feeling for how to bring this character to life in ways that we couldn’t imagine that were really enjoyable to see.”