Inside The Interrogation Room with Taylor Martin & Celia Weston
“Things can’t get weird enough for me.”
– James Spader, reflecting on his title role of Raymond Reddington on The Blacklist.
It’s the macabre, the weird, the eccentric and the consistent straddling of the fence between good and evil, decent or offensive, crazy or justified, law abiding or criminality that makes The Blacklist the best show on television.
Lady Ambrosia (season 3, episode 14) was a milestone first episode for Blacklist writer, Taylor Martin. With her first script, Martin gave fans the gift of ‘weird’ and wrapped it tightly within a fairy tale.
“Once upon a time, there lived a woman in the woods.
She was neither purely evil, nor purely good.
She gathered unwanted children and gave them a home in which to stay.
She promised them they’d live forever and a day.
She changed them into colors, so beautiful, so bold.
She cared for them so sweetly, they never grew old.”
Martin’s Lady Ambrosia, is a tale centered on a woman who is collecting unwanted children with special needs to save them from being labeled as an outcast for she believed them to be useless to society. At adolescence, she kills the children in well-orchestrated ceremony to free them from society’s judgment and to take flight as a beautiful butterfly. At the end of the day, crazy or justified, it was the murdering of helpless children.
Celia Weston, (Dead Man Walking, Snow Falling On Cedars), was perfectly cast in the role of Lady Ambrosia, a character who certainly straddled the fence between good and evil, crazy or justified and the decent or offensive. Weston was drawn to the complexities of Lady Ambrosia, her relationships and her passion.
Curious to know more? Follow me “Into the Interrogation Room” to get all the Intel.
What were your beginnings as a writer?
I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember — it probably started with a series of mystery novels about my dog, Scruffy — sadly, those were never published ;). I started seriously focusing on creative writing as an English major at Georgetown University, and took any creative writing class I could find within that department. To me, it’s crazy that something I enjoy so much can actually be a job.
What was your inspiration for Lady Ambrosia?
She is obviously a character with a much distorted sense of reality and was really inspired by the idea of bringing the myth of the fairytale witch to life.
Did you have to walk a fine line while writing an episode that focuses on children with special needs?
I don’t think it’s necessarily “walking a fine line”, but we do try to be sensitive to the characters we are representing and represent them in truthful ways. I worked in special education prior to becoming a writer, and what I found as a teacher is that although children with special needs may not always express their thoughts and feelings in conventional ways, they are incredibly perceptive, bright, and expressive. Given that idea, one of my favorite scenes is when Ethan reveals the butterfly drawing to Liz — it was his way of leading her to the truth even if he couldn’t express it verbally.
Every episode has material that ends up on the cutting room floor. Can you tell us a bit about the story that we didn’t get to see in the episode? Were there aspects of the episode that were rejected by Sony/NBC?
I can only think of one specific scene that got cut entirely, and it’s a scene where Liz and Ressler are trying to convince the child services woman, Judi, that Ethan should be put in Liz’s care. Though this scene could be important to explain how exactly that happened, it was ultimately cut because there were so many wonderful character driven scenes that we wanted to fit into the episode. Sony/NBC and the writers’ room all want to make the best episode possible so neither Sony nor NBC “reject” scenes, mostly they just help with ideas for what they think is working well.
This was the first “Blacklist” episode you have written. How long was the episode a work in progress? How long did you sit with the episode before it actually aired?
Yes, it was. And it was a lot of fun! It was actually a fairly quick episode — we began breaking it as a writer’s room in the beginning of November, and I was writing the script before Thanksgiving.
Were you tasked to write an episode that would create an internal conflict for Liz regarding her decision to put baby Keen up for adoption?
Yes and no. The idea for the episode and the idea of the Liz adoption story line were two separate entities, but John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp ultimately decided that because of the thematic link, they would pair well together.
What was Jon Bokenkamp’s influence on the episode?
Jon Bokenkamp obviously created the show and is heavily involved in every episode from beginning to end — in terms of ideas, writing, production, and editing. I guess what was unique about my episode in terms of Jon’s involvement is that he helped me on a mentorship level as well — given that it was my first episode of the show — and gave me the confidence to really make it my own.
Are you writing another episode of “The Blacklist”?
Not at the moment, but I hope to do so in the future!
What other shows have you written for? What is your favorite kind of story to write?
I have also written an episode of “Bones“. I don’t think I have a favorite story to write, but I really enjoy writing strong and/or interesting female characters so Liz and Lady Ambrosia were particularly fun to write for in this episode.
You are a very accomplished actress. What was your first acting job?
Well, my first career changing job was a role in the Broadway play, Loose Ends. It starred Kevin Kline, John Goodman and Christine Lahti. We were all very young.
You have quite a filmography, what was your favorite film role?
Dead Man Walking was a favorite of mine. Sister Helen Prejean was on set every day. The film won a few Oscars including Susan Sarandon for Best Actress. I was very touched that she mentioned me in her acceptance speech.
I also liked my part in Snow Falling On Cedars. It starred Max Von Sydow and watching his technique and dedication to the character turned me into a “grown woman groupie”. I just loved to watch him act.
Lady Ambrosia was a complicated character. What attracted you to the role?
The script and story were beautifully written. Lady Ambrosia was full of in depth complexities between a mother, her son and her husband. She was a woman dealing with immeasurable grief over the loss of a child and demonstrates the damaging effects of losing a child.
Was it difficult to play a character who essentially murders helpless children with special needs?
No, I approached the role by first finding her truth. She was a very passionate woman who really believed she was setting the children free. She thought she was doing good. It was all justified in her head. She didn’t exploit the children. I really felt she loved them.
In fact, there was a scene they cut from the episode that demonstrated how much she loved her son. There is a scene in which Anya is being prepared for her “birthday” and Lady Ambrosia comments that she is beautiful. She looks at her son and tells him that he did a lovely job. She then holds his face in her hands and tells him he is lovely.
Were there any other scenes cut?
Yes. When her son throws her into the well, followed by himself, the camera shot to the bottom of the well. It showed the two of them at the bottom and the injuries they sustained. They built the set and we filmed the scene but it was cut from the episode. It was most likely cut for time.
Was Lady Ambrosia crazy?
An actor can’t start at crazy. You have to begin with the truth of the character and then see where that truth takes the character. I had to understand who she was and why she was so passionate about releasing the children. She wasn’t crazy in her own mind, she was loving the children.
Are you a fan of the show? Was that part of the reason you were attracted to the role of Lady Ambrosia?
I had not watched the series on television. My niece gave me Seasons 1 & 2 of The Blacklist in my Christmas stocking. I binged watched both seasons. I was very impressed with James Spader. It helped me prepare for the role or just get the feel of the show.
Thanks to Taylor and Celia for taking the time to divulge some intel on the show! For more in depth interviews, follow Susanne her ‘Inside the Interrogation Room’ column by subscribing to the site or by following The Blacklist Fan Site on Facebook and Twitter.