Believe it or not: James Spader wasn't even the number one candidate to play Raymond "Red" Reddington in The Blacklist! And yet, he was one of the best things to happen to the show. There has been another familiar face that was supposed to get the bad guys behind bars.
Two iconic characters played by two iconic actors: Bryan Cranston left a lasting impression as Walter White in Breaking Bad and James Spader brought Raymond "Red" Reddington to life like no one else. Cranston is great and all, but it's hard to imagine anyone other than Spader in The Blacklist, right?
If you think about it, it could have worked: both Red and Walt show sociopathic tendencies, they both rock the bald head and they both have serious criminal energy. Maybe that's why NBC looked at Bryan Cranston's portrayal of Walter "the one who knocks" White and thought: Yeah, we want that guy.
- Did you know there are The Blacklist books?
James Spader Wasn't The First Choice – And Neither The Second Or The Third
The initial hunt for Red's actor nearly left The Blacklist in shambles: production was supposed to start in three days, and they still hadn't cast the protagonist. However, the producers knew who they wanted: Kiefer Sutherland! Obviously, that didn't work out – and neither did Bryan Cranston, Richard Gere or Pierce Brosnan, who were all offered the role of Red.
In an interview with Variety, John Eisendrath (executive producer and showrunner of The Blacklist) gave insight into the stressful casting process. They sent out lots of offers, to James Spader as well, but none of the actors got back to the Blacklist team – until three days before production start.
That's when James Spader took the role, basically at the last second, explaining to the Guardian that he's simply lazy: "Unless I’m showing up on the set and acting I prefer to have nothing to do with the actual business of being an actor."
That includes responding to role offers on time, it seems. Developing a role is often a process that takes weeks and months and, most importantly, an actor to do that. For Red in The Blacklist, that process was a byproduct of, well, Spader showing up on set and acting.
And you know what? We're not complaining. James Spader was born to play Red.
It's not the Spader voice, but another good one:
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