LOS ANGELES — Creating memorable characters is both a blessing and curse to James Spader.
Roles like Alan Shore in "Boston Legal" and "The Practice," or Dr. Daniel Jackson in "Stargate," have earned him praise and fame. But when he takes on a new part, such as the mysterious and creepy Raymond Reddington in NBC's new drama "The Blacklist" that debuts Monday night, Spader does his best to make people forget his past work and see him as someone new.
"People seem to have short memories when it comes to pop culture, but I think it does help if you're able to, whatever you come up with next, that it be a departure and that the world be very different," he says. "I think obviously with the television series, one has to be cognizant of that. I think that's probably why, if you've done something for a period of time, it's prudent to do other things before you then jump into something else again that you're going to do for a period of time."
The role in "The Blacklist" is a major departure. His character is a super criminal who has eluded capture for years. One day, he decides to give himself up to the FBI, where he offers his assistance in tracking down other super criminals. His only stipulation is that he work with rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone).
Spader explains that it's clear from the opening episode there's a past between the two of them to which the profiler isn't privy.
Even devoted Spader fans may have to look twice when he shows up in Monday's opener. Spader has a nearly shaved head.
The lack of locks makes him look different from past characters and fits the nature of his character. Spader explains that Reddington would have wanted to keep his life simple during the 20 years he was on the run.
"He's moving from place to place very quickly. I thought he should have a haircut that he can do himself if he cares to or he can go to some barber shop in a little town in Cambodia and they can cut his hair in 10 minutes," Spader says. "I just thought it was streamlined. And his clothes are like that, too, in that he looks well dressed, but traveling clothes. You know, he wears clothes that he can go from a bank to a cave and he's dressed accordingly."
"The Blacklist": 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, on KSEE (Channel 24.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.