Tell Him It’s Raymond Reddington – Inside The Interrogation Room with Harry Lennix
“Good afternoon. I’m here to see Assistant Director Harold Cooper…
Tell him it’s Raymond Reddington.” – Raymond Reddington
In the pilot episode of The Blacklist, Raymond Reddington mentions the name of Assistant Director Harold Cooper in the first three lines of dialogue. Immediately, we are made aware that Agent Cooper is someone of great power and importance. In fact, there are other references in the pilot and throughout the series that suggest Reddington’s dealings with Cooper began long before he showed up at the F.B.I Headquarters to turn himself in. They obviously already know one another.
“Evidently someone with the authority to make decisions has arrived.
I think I smell the stench of your cologne, Agent Cooper.
Smells like hubris.” – Raymond Reddington
Agent Cooper is indeed a powerful man. He served in the Navy, was a Senior F.B.I. Agent in Afghanistan and he was recently released from his duties as the Assistant Director of Counter-terrorism at the F.B.I. To most fans, it is not Agent Cooper’s resume that defines his importance on the show. The man has integrity!
Harry Lennix is the actor that more than fills Agent Cooper’s shoes. As you may have noticed, those shoes are pretty hard to fill! Well, unless you’re Harry Lennix.
So, who is Harry Lennix? Please step into the interrogation room to find out all the Intel.
How did you begin your acting career? What was your first acting gig?
I started performing when I was a young boy, but my professional career began while I was a student at Northwestern University. Right before I began my junior year I was cast in a m THAN LIFE. I played “Sax Man” and l learned to play the saxophone for the part.
How did you land the role of Agent Harold Cooper?
The audition was literally walking distance from my house. That was a good thing because I was driving around in a $600 car that I had just purchased from my brother and the engine didn’t always start. There weren’t a lot of people there on the day so the whole process was pretty quick. I think I spent more time trying to get the engine to turn over than I did in the audition.The creator of the show, Jon Bokenkamp read with me during the audition. About 2 weeks later, I got the call.
I’ve read that your father is of creole descent and from Louisiana. I was born and raised just outside New Orleans! I still live here. Were you raised in the south?
My dad was born and raised about 40 miles west of New Orleans. A place called LaPlace, La. (which means “The Place”). My father moved to Chicago to attend school on the G.I. Bill and met my mother there. I was born and raised in Chicago, although my father died a few months before my second birthday.
In season one, it seemed your character was used seldomly. Fans expressed their desire to see more action from Agent Cooper. How did you feel about your involvement in season one? Were you promised more action as the series progressed? How do you feel about how your character has progressed?
Season one seems like a long time ago now, but I think I was busier on the show in the first year than in the second and third seasons in terms of time requirement. It’s hard to say, though. A very nice network executive did mention to me after the first year that they wanted to involve Cooper more. In fact, I’ve enjoyed all 3 seasons and the work I’ve had to do on the show. It’s more about quality than quantity for me. Cooper has certainly had the chance to reveal a lot more about his life and history as the show has developed, and it’s been an engaging challenge to navigate through the revelations into his character.
Do you think Cooper will resume his job on the task force once the cabal is defeated?
There’s always a chance!
Do you think Agent Cooper’s neighbor will sue him or Charlene for destroying the cabin?
Only if he wants the full weight of the FBI to make his life a living hell.
It seems no one can be truly trusted on the show. Is Cooper going to be the one who turns out to be the villain? Would you like that kind of twist with your character?
It’s certainly crossed my mind. On a personal level it doesn’t really appeal to me, as I had such a twist with a character I played in DOLLHOUSE. That said, I have no way of knowing what may be in the offing, nor in a world such as we inhabit on THE BLACKLIST can we say with any certainty what constitutes a “villain.” It’s really a matter of allegiance and agenda.
What actors or characters do you draw inspiration from in your work as Agent Cooper?
I’m quite fond of Herbert Marshall in Hitchcock’s FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. He’s great at the whole cloak and dagger thing. He’s such a wonderful actor, and he mastered “high style” with a rare grace and aplomb.
Can he tell us some of the challenges of filming the series?
Delivering first-rate, feature quality material on a weekly basis is labor intensive. So much energy is expended by an army of people in front of, and behind, the camera. For Megan, Diego, and James (as well as Hisham and Ryan) there is also a lot of stamina that is required. It must be quite challenging them on a physical and emotional level, but it’s also a great privilege to have the opportunity to rise to that challenge.
Have you worked with any Blacklist cast members before filming the show?
This is my first time acting with any of the members of the regular cast.
What is it like acting alongside James Spader? Is it intimidating?
Acting with James is like playing chess with Bobby Fischer. He is masterful and meticulous. More than anything else, he’s a joy to watch.
The scene when Agent Cooper confronts the doctor who convinced him he was dying of cancer was intense! When did you become aware that your character was not sick? Did you know all along how that would turn out?
No, I didn’t really know how the storyline would be resolved.
Has Agent Cooper replaced the gnome Ressler murdered? It’s amazing to me how much attention that one kick to the head received.
Cooper only regrets he did not think to do it first.
The banter between Agent Cooper and Charlene regarding her infidelity was very entertaining. I thought it was quite funny. Do you think Agent Cooper will be able to forgive his wife now that the truth is out and the “remote cabin” has been destroyed by gunfire?
I don’t know, but I think that lots of unexpected things happen on the show.
For the first two seasons, Cooper and his wife seemed to have the perfect marriage. Clearly Charlene’s infidelity certainly destroys that perfect image. Does going from one extreme to another present a challenge?
Absolutely! That’s the most fun.
Have he and Charlene signed up for marriage counseling?
Hello? Have you been watching? Who has the time?! 😉
Would Agent Cooper ever consider working permanently on Red’s team?
I think it would entirely depend on the circumstances and conditions.
What is his background with Red? They seem to know each other beyond just cop and criminal. Will we ever find out what occurred in Kuwait?
I hope we do.
Do you ever feel like he is in a soap opera, having been kidnapped, near electrocuted, garroted, and given a brain tumor that was false?
No doubt he has some scars and a lot of great war stories, but Cooper knows that his assignment is a high risk endeavor.
What movie or plays do you have in the works?
I’m releasing two of my own films this year: REVIVAL, and H4. H4 is Shakespeare’s Henry IV. REVIVAL is a gospel musical.
You are so open and accessible to fans via Twitter and fans are very appreciative. What do you enjoy most about interacting with Blacklist Fandom?
I’m always thrilled at how observant our fans are. They don’t miss much, which always scares me a bit because I know it takes me a few times to read the script before I can catch up to it.
Do you like where the character of is heading? Do you think he has a chance of working for the FBI and becoming part of the task force? Are you still intrigued by Ryan Eggold’s character, Tom Keen?
Keen has shown himself to be a reliable ally for Liz. He can at least be trusted for that. Cooper would likely never want to depend upon him in law enforcement. He is a committed criminal, but I think he would make a great informant or covert operative for ad hoc purposes.
Red visits Cooper at his home in the beginning of season 2. Red states, “I know about your diagnosis.” How did Red know about Cooper’s diagnosis before he shared the news with anyone?
It must be connected to The Cabal. The information must have been given in exchange for something Red provided. Perhaps Red has an informant in the Cabal or at the hospital. Or both.
How does Agent Cooper feel about “Boy Scout” Agent Ressler?
He has great regard for his integrity and commitment.
How does Agent Cooper feel about Liz Keen? Is she like a daughter to him?
He has great respect for her character and personal courage. She’s a fighter. She is something like a daughter to him. But she’s also like a soul mate.