Inside the Interrogation Room with Jon Bokenkamp
His name is seen in a “blink-or-you’ll-miss it” flash at the start of each episode of The Blacklist. He is the genius that brought James Spader as Raymond Reddington into our living rooms on Thursday nights. He entertains us with eccentric characters such as Mr. Kaplin and Jelly Bean. He is the series creator, executive producer and most importantly, he is the BOSS! He is Jon Bokenkamp.
Most of you have heard or watched an interview or two with Bokenkamp. Too often he is asked the same tired questions in interviews. So, I set out to ask questions that were both routine and unique.
Curious? Follow me “Inside The Interrogation Room” to collect all the Intel.
SP: James Spader was not the actor you initially had in mind for the role of Raymond Reddington but he won you over with his understanding of the role. Has James Spader exceeded your expectations as Reddington?
JB: Oh my God, yes. We had approached several actors for the role and Spader was the first to accept. It requires a huge commitment from an actor when there are 22 episodes but he was all in.
SP: Has Spader added any unique traits to Reddington’s character that were not original to the scripts?
JB: He brought so many unique elements to the character. He had lots of questions about the character and brought eccentricities to the role of Reddington. I had originally wrote the character as a kind of a Gary Oldman persona. Spader suggested the character have a shaved head and would have two types of wardrobe, a tuxedo and something rough. Spader also brought in more humor to the character than I wrote for him.
SP: Now, we can’t imagine anyone else in the role. James Spader is Raymond Reddington.
SP: Can you tell us briefly about the process of selling a show idea to a major network? How long did it take to sell The Blacklist?
JB: It’s a really long detailed story. The Blacklist was born from failure. I had pitched another pilot I wrote to NBC. They passed but expressed an interest in any others I would write. They said I owed them another script. All the networks we approached with the show passed. NBC was the only network to accept.
SP: Born from failure, that’s amazing considering how popular the show has become. I’m knee deep, more like chest deep, in the land of Blacklist Fandom and the show has taken on a life of it’s own. Especially online and within the groups. It’s very cool.
JB: Social media is such a fun experience. I am amazed at how dedicated fans are to the show. The theories and close attention to detail are humbling. It’s a great way to gauge what the fans think of what we are writing and what characters they like.
SP: Social media brings you into our living rooms on Thursday nights.
JB: You’re right!
SP: Is that the case with Dembe? Hisham Tawfiq was slated for only one episode and now he’s a series regular.
JB: Dembe said just one word in season 1 and fans loved it. He’s in Liz’s apartment and asks Liz what color paint is on her walls. She answered, “Chicago Skyline”. Dembe answered, “Nice”. That’s when we saw there was more to be told about Dembe and the fans just loved it.
SP: Fans can be very intuitive and clever in figuring out plot twists or huge reveals on the show. Have you ever been forced to alter the course of the story because fans already had it figured out?
JB: No, we have never altered a story due to opinion on social media. I don’t think we would ever do that. Like I said, social media is just a really fun experience and a good way to gauge fans.
SP: Fans love characters such as “Glen the DMV guy” and Mr. Kaplin. Will see more of them this season?
JB: Yes, and fairly soon.
SP: What is your least favorite episode?
JB: Ha, that’s like pointing out your least favorite child.
SP: If you actually had a least favorite episode, it probably wouldn’t sit well with the person who wrote it. Awkward!
SP: Who is your favorite Blacklister?
JB: I have a real soft spot for The Stewmaker. Also, Milton Bobbit. He had a very emotional story to tell.
SP: Oh, yes! My favorite is The Stewmaker as well. But I have to love Milton Bobbit…he took his nose off!
SP: That’s all I have for now. I want to thank you for all your support and giving me this opportunity. I could have never imagined how far my love for the show would take me and the success I’ve had interviewing you and cast members.You had a huge part in my success and I’m truly grateful.
JB: My pleasure. I love what you’re doing with the site, it’s really great. I love knowing fans like you are out there. It makes everything we do worth it!