On-screen, NBC’s hit series The Blacklist is riddled with hidden agendas and scandals. But what about off-screen? What goes on behind the scenes? What seething, sinister secrets sit below the surface of that silver screen? What betrayals? What injustices?
If you watch The Blacklist, then you live with constant curiosity. Fans of the show are presented with an overwhelming myriad of mysteries. For five long years, you have waited patiently for the show’s creators to offer any tiny scrap of revelation. Well, we think you’ve waited long enough!
We’ve put together a list of 20 Secrets Behind The Blacklist and shed light on them. No stone has been left unturned, no mystery unexplored. We’ve dug through interviews, spoilers, chatrooms, and deleted tweets to bring you the answers which you so desperately seek. From real-life scandal to hidden clues in the plot, from behind-the-scenes to between-the-lines, we’ve found all there is to find. What follows is a collection of Blacklist secrets revealed. Everything the show’s creators don’t want you to know and everything they don’t know themselves is on this list. Everything you didn’t know you didn’t know is about to be explained. The truth is not out there, it’s right here.
20 Megan Boone Grew Up in a Retirement Home
Anyone who watches The Blacklist knows who Megan Boon is. She plays an FBI agent named Elizabeth Keen, the show’s central character. The truth about Agent Keen’s background and childhood are somewhat of a mystery. Her early years are strange and dripping with intrigue. Much like her character, Megan Boone also had an unusual childhood.
Megan was born on April 29th, 1983 in Petoskey, Michigan. But she didn’t stay there long. When Megan was still very young, her parents decided to move… to a retirement village! The Villages is a CDP community in Florida. It is a “master-planned age-restricted community.” Which essentially means that it is an entire city designated as a living space for the elderly.
However, The Villages is far from a sleepy little town. It is considered to be one of the best places to retire in the entire country. For the past two years it has been the tenth fastest growing city in the United states.
Gary Morse is the billionaire property developer of The Villages. He is also Megan’s grandfather. Apparently, her parents decided to move to the retirement community to be near him. Or maybe it was to live for free in a resort-like paradise. Who knows?
19 James Spader – Real Life Conman
Megan Boone isn’t the only cast member who shares some similarities with her character on The Blacklist. James Spader (who plays the charismatic and enigmatic criminal mastermind known as Raymond Reddington) has actually spent some time as a conman! Ok, so maybe “conman” is a bit of an exaggeration, but Spader defiantly has a mischievous streak. In the 1970s, James worked as a professional yoga instructor. Here’s the thing though, He had absolutely no qualifications and no idea how to do yoga.
“It was THE great yoga scam.” Spader told Seth Meyers in an interview. “I was completely unqualified. I had done it because I heard the hours were flexible and there were a lot of girls around.” During the interview, Spader went on to explain that he had found a yoga pamphlet at a grocery store. All he gleaned from it was to hold a position and breathe. So that’s what he did. And that’s what he told his students to do.
“My classes were: I dimmed the lights and I would sort of lay down in the front and I would just get people into – I would talk them into, I didn’t even show them, I would talk them into some sort of odd contortion that I interpreted and being yogic.”
He apparently would also often fall asleep midclass.
18 James Spader Does Not Like Television
James Spader has been one of the most talented and captivating actors in Television for years. His calm and cryptic demeanor delight and bewilder audiences of The Blacklist, The Office, and many other shows. For decades, Spader has made his living working in the television industry. So it stands to reason that he would love television. Right? Wrong. Despite his successful career as a television actor, Spader does not actually watch or like television.
In an interview for Collider, Spader admitted that he has “…never been a big TV watcher.”
But he at least watches the Blacklist right? Wrong again. Apparently, James gets all the suspense and intrigue he needs while on set. It seems strange that a man who has dedicated his life to TV doesn’t actually watch it. He doesn’t even watch The Blacklist!
But Spader isn’t some bitter grouch who sits in his tower and hates his job. While he does not consume his own product, Spader has no ill feelings toward television. He just doesn’t watch. Spader made a point to reassure the interviewer that he does enjoy his job immensely.
It seems that James Spader is content to forever be the chef and not client. The actor, not the audience.
17 James Spader Has an Eidetic Memory
If you have ever watch Big Bang Theory, then you have no doubt heard the term “eidetic memory.” In simple terms it means a person can remember everything. Absolutely everything. More commonly known as “Photographic memory,” eidetic memory is a condition where an individual can recall whatever they see with perfect clarity and accuracy.James Spader claims to have an eidetic memory.
Apparently, he can read the script over once and then, when shooting time rolls around, he can remember every line verbatim.
Maybe that’s how he remembers his entire list without writing it down. Apparently, the only time Spader has any difficulty is when two similar looking words are near each other on the page. As it turns out, James Spader is just as multitalented as his character Red Reddington.
Many people claim to have photographic memories. Unfortunately, there is no real way to test these claims and so far, there are no verified cases of the ability. Maybe we can take Spader at his word when he claims to have an eidetic memory. Then again, he is a conman playing a conman. Can we trust anything he says?
16 Megan Boone Was the First Person Cast for the Show
Most people would assume that the charismatic James Spader would have been the first person cast, as he is early similar to his character. Watching the show, you’d think that the show was written for him. Perfectly suited for the role and fascinating to watch, Reddington is just the sort of character you’d expect a show to be built around.
However, just like the show itself, nothing behind-the-scenes it how it seems. As it turns out, it was little-known actress Megan Boone who first landed a role on The Blacklist. She was the very first actress chosen by the studio producers and the rest of the cast was built around her.
While being handpicked for a major television role is a wonderful break for an up-and-coming actress, it nearly fell apart. After being cast as Keen, Megan needed a co-star to play Raymond Reddington. This turned out to be a more difficult task than anticipated, as the studio had a very difficult time finding a Reddington that meshed well with Boone.
Normally a problem like that results in a recast. Meaning if the studio hadn’t stumbled upon James Spader, Boone would have been fired.
But luckily, along came a Spader and the two have been a hit television team/rivalry ever since.
15 What Do The Blacklist Numberings Mean?
The Blacklist is the central idea of the entire show. It brings the characters together and gives them a common cause. But what is the Blacklist? It is a list of names, roster of criminals and ne'er-do-wells. The reason why Red chooses to include individuals on the list is a mystery. On the surface, each name on the list is a criminal. But everything Red does has an ulterior motive and, knowing Reddington, there is some larger master-plan behind the list.
Each person on Red’s list is numbered, but what do these numbers mean? It could be as simple as each name is numbered corresponding to their arbitrary position on the list. That’s possible, but unlikely, as Red never does anything without reason. No move he makes is without greater purpose. So, what is the purpose of the numbers? It is a mystery the creators of the show are yet to reveal, but that has not stopped the internet from speculating.
One leading theory is that the numbers are not assigned by Red, but by Agent Keen. This theory is based on the prediction that Liz will become more like Red as the series develops.
Some speculate that the names are numbered according to their impact on Liz’s life. The lower the number, the greater the impact. This theory is supported by the fact that Tom Keen is # 7 and Tom Connolly is #11. Each of these characters has impacted Liz’s life greatly and each of them has a relatively low number associated with them.
Yet another theory suggests that Raymond himself will be #1 on the list.
These are three of the most probable theories floating around. The interesting thing is that all three could be true at the same time.
14 Liz’s “Passing” Was Possibly Written Into the Script For A Reason
Just before the season break, The Blacklist hit us with its biggest surprise yet: a deceased Elisabeth Keen! The show’s creators have never been shy about bumping off main characters. By the end of the first season, less than half of the original cast was left standing. The Blacklist has an obituary comparable to Game of Thrones. Even in a bloodbath style show where it seems no one is safe, we still have characters we assume will make it. Some people just seem too important to get taken down. But, just like GOT, The Blacklist is not afraid to raise people from the grave either.
Coming back from break we found out that Elizabeth Keen’s passing, which seemed too sad to be true, was in fact not true. As far as the plot goes, Keen faked the whole thing as a means of escaping Reddington’s control. But this twist was more than a ploy for added intrigue.
Liz’s short-lived scheme was actually nothing more than a convenient plot device.
Boone needed time off from the show because (just like her fictional counterpart) she was pregnant. During her hiatus from the show, Boone gave berth to her new child. When asked if her real-life pregnancy was the reason for her playing possum, Boone avoided the question entirely and instead addressed Keen and Reddington’s trouble relationship. She may not be willing to confirm or deny weather or not this latest plot turn was a result of her pregnancy, but the timing is pretty suspicious. It would be quite the coincidence if the event just happened to line up with her delivery date.
13 The Entire Series Plot Was Planned Ahead of Time
With a show like The Blacklist, which is built on mystery and intrigue, we have to wonder if they know where this is going. Are they making it up as they go along? Anyone who watched Lost can attest to the pain and disappoint that awaits the overly trusting viewer. There is a great deal of trust that goes into becoming emotionally and mentally invested in a long-spanning story. You put your time, your interest, your energy, and your enthusiasm into the hands of the storyteller. For storylines that take years to unfold, that is quite the commitment. No one wants to find out that that trust has been misplaced. No one wants to get wrapped up in a mystery, only to find out that the person who asked the question didn’t know the answer.
As the tension mounts and the thread unravels, dedicated fans of The Blacklist are no doubt asking themselves how this is all going to end. Well, we have good news: there is a plan! This is, in fact, going somewhere!
Jon Bokenkamp (the show’s creator) dispelled any doubts in his recent interview with Variety Magazine. “We’ve thought about the whole series and we’ve had conversations with everyone involved. We definitely have an end game in mind.” Bokenkamp said. “There is a bible in our writer’s room that tracks every character, every plotline. If we didn’t have our endgame in mind it would be very difficult to tell the story we’re telling.”
The path has been planned and carefully constructed. The timing has been precise. Just like Reddington, the show’s creators don’t make any moves arbitrarily. Everything is calculated, everything is building to a final conclusion. So stay tuned!
12 Jon Bokenkamp has no idea what he is doing
Jon Bokenkamp may have a master plot all laid out, but that doesn’t mean we can trust him completely. While he may not be winging it plot-wise, he is learning as he goes. Who is Jon Bokenkamp? Have you ever watch one of his shows before The Blacklist? No? There’s a reason for that… he’s never made one before.
Bokenkamp has no background in television. He has absolutely no experience writing for television. He barley has any resume to speak of in film either. In over twenty years, Bokenkamp worked as a writer for exactly five movies (all of which were lackluster mystery or thriller movies). His real background is in the world of live theater. Inexperienced and untested, Bokenkamp has been working to prove himself in the five years since Blacklist came on the air. For a newbie, he has been doing quite well. The show certainly has a strong following and there is no evidence that it will be canceled. It hasn’t been an easy road though.
The Blacklist had a flawed debut. The pilot was sloppily written. Cinemablend took Jon to task over the shortcomings, claiming that the “action sequences are frequently predictable” and that The Blacklist didn’t compare well with other NBC projects such as Hannibal. While Blacklist is successful, Bokenkamp’s record is still only 50/50. The recent Blacklist spinoff, The Blacklist: Redemption was a massive failure which was canceled after only one season.
Only time will tell if Bokenkamp’s master-plan will live up to the hype. You have our attention, Jon.
11 Lilly Will Reveal Reddington’s True Backstory
The big reveal can’t be far off. It has been subtly hinted at in conversations and cryptic comments. What’s the real story? Who is Red? The deep secret is fully formed and waiting, somewhere in the dark recesses of Jon Bokenkamp’s brain. So, when is he going to show us the truth? And how is he going to reveal it? What plot device will be the vehicle of revelation?
We don’t know the “what” or the “when”, but Bokenkamp has revealed the “how.”
Lilly is the answer. Lilly, who we now know is really named Jennifer, will be the catalyst that unravels Red’s web of mystery.
Lilly is Reddington’s long-lost daughter. Lilly has recently been reintroduced and the repercussions will be game-changing. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bokenkamp promises that Lilly will “throw a wrench in the mechanism that is the Reddington empire” and that she “knows potential truths about who Raymond Reddington is. She knows why he stepped out of her life and yet she’s been completely disconnected for years. She’s sort of a grab bag of answers.” Now that Liz has her hands on Lilly, she has access to those answers.
In an interview with Variety Magazine, Bokenkamp talked about Lilly’s character. He explained that Lilly (a.k.a Jennifer) has a critical role yet to play in the unraveling mystery. Apparently, Lilly’s story has been planned and “gestating” since she was first introduced. Bokenkamp informed viewers that Lilly/Jennifer’s central role will be to act a vehicle through which Liz discovers the truth about Red.
With Liz and Lilly reunited, the pieces are all in place for the secrets to come out. It’s only a matter of time now.
10 Megan Boone has Been Fighting Inequality Behind-the-Scenes
Not long ago, a scandal came bubbling to the surface. Last summer, the NBC released a seemingly innocent series of promotional images on Twitter. These images were to spark the first major scandal for The Blacklist.
Soon, the studio was under attack from one of their own: Megan Boone. You’d think that a show which centers around a strong female lead would be sensitive to the issue of gender equality. However, it turns out Megan was underrepresented. The images featured Spader’s character prominently while shoving Boone’s character to the side. Despite the fact that they are both equally pivotal characters, NBC’s Twitter team chose to focus only on the male lead. Boone attributed this imbalance to the chauvinism which she claimed is “rampant in this industry.” Boone had apparently been treated with passive disregard from the show’s directors as well. Megan’s intentions were never incendiary or vindictive and she simply wanted equal representation. She made a point to clarify that she had nothing but respect and admiration for her co-star. Whatever prejudice may have been present on-set, it definitely wasn’t come from James Spader.
Megan had to start a lobbying campaign to fight for equal representation in the show’s promotional images. The incident received little attention from the media and it is not clear what (if any) systemic changes were put into effect as a result. However, shortly after she began her campaign, the offensive images were quietly retracted.
9 Tom is Gone. For Real This Time.
Tom is one of the show’s most interesting characters. His dark past, his fake identity, and his genuine love for Elizabeth all make him a character who is simultaneously sympathetic and contemptible. Whatever your personal feelings about Tom, you have to admit he has received more than his fair share of beatings, bullets, and wounds. Throughout the series, Tom’s character has had countless close calls and nearly fatal wounds.
If you have ever watched The Blacklist, then you have no doubt wondered if his number was up at least once. Most of us have written him off as a goner more times than we can count. But our favorite morally ambiguous lover boy has always managed to pull through. Until now.
Before the mid-season break, Tom found himself tied once again. Pretty much routine for him at this point. Just another day. His resulting wounds were severe, but nothing he hadn’t seen before. This time, however, it seems his luck has finally run out. There is no miraculous recovery instore for Tom this time. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ryan Eggold (who plays Tom) confirmed that "There's certainly no funny business there."
Furthermore, Eggold does not appear on the credits of the upcoming season and he has already been cast in a new show. Sorry folks, one character coming back form the grave is all you get this season.
8 Jon Bokenkamp Admits How He Comes Up with Red’s Stories
We may not know much about Red’s past, but we do get fragments of it. Red often tells interesting stories about his life, about places he’s been or things he’s seen. Usually, these are vehicles for some sinister or dramatic message and are not much more than anecdotes. They reveal more about Red’s personality than his actual history. Where do these stories come from though? Red tells them quite often and they are invariably colorful and unique. How do the writers continue to produce such original and random content? Where does the inspiration come from?
In an interview with TV Guide, Bokenkamp tells us exactly where he draws these fictional events from. Often, the body of these stories (the basic events) come from experiences in the lives of the writing team. The details, however, the minute descriptions which bring the stories to life, come from somewhere else entirely.
"A lot of it is Googling places that would be hard for Spader to say," Bokenkamp told TV Guide, "and trying to find foods that would be weird to watch him describe and delight in. Oftentimes we just start with a sentence like, 'I was once off the coast of such and such.' and spitball from there."
So next time you hear Red pontificate about his colorful adventures and you wonder where the idea came from, just listen for the word he has the most trouble pronouncing. That’s probably the root of the whole thing.
7 Megan Boone Makes Important Demands
This issue is sensitive one at the moment and we’re here for information on television, movies, and comics. We’re not here for politics, but sometimes the two do inevitably overlap. For the star of the show, Megan Boone, politics and television are deeply interconnected.
Boone has come out with a strong anti-gun stance. As the star of an action-packed show, it is understandable that she would want to make her stance on this particular issue very clear. And she has. In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High incident, Megan made a heartfelt public proclamation.
On February 23rd of this year, Megan Boone tweeted: “Liz Keen will never carry an assault rifle again and I am deeply sorry for participating in glorifying them in the past. Yours, girl from Florida”
It seems that Boone feels she is partly to blame for the culture of violence. Inevitably, the comment received mixed reactions, from enthusiastic support to bitter resentment. The studio has neither condemned nor condoned the Tweet.
6 James Spader is Just As Confused As The Rest of Us
James Spader doesn’t know what’s going on, which sounds strange because Spader’s character is the one person who always seems to really know what’s going on. We are used to him being totally calm, totally collected, and holding every card. But this is one instance where Spader and his character are different. Viewers should know that cast member, James Spader, doesn’t know anything more than we do.
By his own request, Spader is given just one script at a time.
He has no idea what will happen to Red (or by Red’s hand) in the future. He’s just as in the dark as we are… and he likes it that way. In an interview with the New York Times, Spader said: “I still love the element of surprise, even for myself.” He also commented, repeatedly, how surprise is his favorite element of the show. If you’re reading this list than you probably won’t understand someone not wanting to hear spoilers, but James is not interested in premature revelations of any kind.
So, after reading this list, if you should stumble on some more spoilers about where Reddington’s road is leading, please just don’t tell James Spader. You’d ruin the surprise! And I don’t think any of us want to be on Spader/Reddington’s bad side!
5 Harry Lennix Involved With Barack Obama Hoax
A strange rumor started by Eric “Mancow” Muller, after Harry Lennix appeared as a guest on his radio show, saw Lennix allegedly admitted that he was hired to make the former President look more dignified. He trained Obama in body language and posture. Lennix fiercely denied having said anything of the sort, saying: “Those are not my words. I don’t like Barack Obama or his policies, but I never said I trained him or anything of the kind.”
Muller did have a witness to back him up, as the producer of his show was apparently present during the conversation. He confirmed that Lennix had indeed claimed that Obama had spent years following the actor and learning how to present himself in a similar manner. Furthermore, it also asserted that Lennix and Obama were long-time friends before either of them came into the public spotlight.
It seems like this was simply a case of sensationalism media, as the rumor was debunked when looking at older videos of President Obama.
4 Red’s Iconic Hat Was All James Spader’s Idea
When you hear the name Raymond “Red” Reddington, what comes to mind? Crime, mystery, manipulation, sophistication, and the hat. Indiana Jones has a whip, Dorothy has her shoes, and Red has his hat. Iconic and classy, the hat is an integral part of Red’s persona. Without the hat, Red isn’t Red. Without Red, The Blacklist isn’t The Blacklist.
Given its iconic nature, it might come as a surprise that the show’s creators didn’t come up with the idea.
In fact, they actually fought against it!
In an interview, showrunner/executive producer John Eisendrath admitted the hat was all James Spader’s idea. “He always thought that his character should wear a hat,” Eisendrath explained. “and we were all like, ‘No, no hat. No hat. Nobody’s going to want to see a guy with a hat.’ And he was like, ‘I think he wears a hat.’ He was very insistent that his character would wear a hat. And he was totally right. I love the hat now.”
This is just further proof that Spader is the perfect actor to play Red. According to Eisendrath, the issue of the hat “was an example where [Spader] just had such a great feeling for how to bring this character to life, in ways that we couldn’t imagine.”
3 James Spader Hates When The Blacklist Spinoff Films in His Neighborhood
If you live in a big city like New York, then you are familiar with the hassle that filming can create for the average person, with the blocked off streets and the closed restaurants. But we’re not alone in the annoyance, as it just as bad for actors. James Spader, for one, gets very annoyed when TV shows are filmed on his street. Even when they’re shows he’s connected to! The Blacklist: Redemption filmed on his street several times.
While appearing as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Spader explained that (while he loves living in New York) there are numerous difficulties that go along with being a New Yorker. “Just to get through the day in New York is a great effort for all new Yorkers.” Spader said. “And anything that one does to hinder that effort is just unfair. And that’s including shooting a television show on the street.”
Spader then explained how, on three separate occasions, he had come home to find his street blocked off for the filming of The Blacklist: Redemption. This annoyed him to no end. Good news, James! Redemption has been officially canceled. Being a New Yorker just got a little bit easier!
2 The Blacklist Was Inspired By A Real Person
The Blacklist is a twisting web of improbable secretes stemming from an unlikely scenario. While it is exciting to see, most of would agree that the events in the show are rather outlandish. Watching the show, you might think that nothing similar would ever happen in real life. Right? Wrong! As unlikely as it seems, very similar events would (and have) taken place. That’s right! Believe it or not, The Blacklist is based on a true story!!
Showrunner John Eisendrath revealed that the show is based of a real-life super criminal. So maybe the show wasn’t cast based on James Spader, but the show was definitely built around Raymond Reddington and the real-world version of Raymond Reddington is named Whitey Bulger. Bulger is a world-class criminal who has been on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Fugitives for twenty years!
Bulger and Reddington aren’t exactly the same though. While Reddington turned himself in, Bulger was simply captured. Every detail might not be the same, but Bulger was the inspiration that gave birth to Reddington.
1 Raymond Reddington IS the Biological Father of Masha Rostova
It’s a girl! And you’re the father, Red. If you’re up to date on the show, then you know this already, but it is still worth mentioning since it’s the most important, anticipated, and predictable secret of the entire series. The first of several cornerstone secrets has finally been revealed! For years, fans have been speculating what Reddington’s connection to Elizabeth Keen is. Now we know.
DNA tests do not lie. There is no longer any room for doubt. Central character Elizabeth Keen (whose real name is Masha Rostova) is the biological daughter of Raymond “Red” Reddington! Raise your hand if you’re surprised by this revelation. Nobody? Makes sense. It’s been pretty obvious since episode one.
There were only two real possibilities: either he was her father, or something very creepy and inappropriate was going on. They tried to throw us off by having Red repeatedly insist that he was not her father. Which only served to make it more obvious that he was. Red is, after all, a world-class conman, criminal, and liar. If he says something, it’s pretty safe to assume the opposite is true. The only thing that would have convinced us that he wasn’t her father would have been if he had said he was!
Which of these did you find most surprising? Let us know in the comments!