Improv, Reddington’s Code & Cameos – Interview with The Blacklist’s “Amir Arison”

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Amir-Arison-blacklistFrom Improvisation to Cameo Appearances – Amir Arison Shares His Insight On NBC’s “The Blacklist”…

In Amir Arison‘s career, he has played many things. From doctors to princes to lawyers and sultans, Arison’s roles have spanned film and television alike. He’s fought crime on CBS’s As the World Turns (2008); walked through walls on FOX’s Fringe (2008); been a sleazy developer on FX’s American Horror Story: Murder House (2011); and treated patients on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2009-2011). He’s even tackled conspiracy theories on ABC’s Zero Hour (2013). But it has been his role as “Aram Mojtabai” in NBC’s fierce drama series The Blacklist where Arison has struggled with his ethical code, escaped being a mole and fine-tuned his computer hacking skills. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Arison about his character Aram and the improvisation he’s been able to bring from working on Girls (2014) to this role. He talked about working with James Spader, Reddington’s code and the incredible cameo appearances The Blacklist has yet to offer. Want to know more? Check out our interview with Arison below.

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The Blacklist would be nothing without its main protagonist, Red Reddington, played by the remarkable James Spader. One of Arison’s most memorable scenes with Spader was in episode 1×11 “The Good Samaritan (No. 106),” when the entire unit came under scrutiny as the FBI searched for the mole. Red was able to prove Aram’s innocence through some very interesting – albeit crazily intense – means. Despite Arison’s improv work, he says that particular scene “was written as it was shot,” though he has used ad-libbing in other areas of the series. He tells us that when his character “was in front of that computer with Ressler [played by Diego Klattenhoff] and Agent Malik [Parminder Nagra]” and he started improvising, he knew they could cut it but they kept it. Arison says when he saw that, he “kind of knew they were going to bring me back.” Turns out the writers and producers didn’t just love Arison’s improv: they also loved his feedback, and so Arison’s input on his character has helped create Amar’s “great persona.”

Arison has every respect for his co-worker Spader, dubbing him “one of the greatest scene partners on the planet.” He goes on to say that Spader “is so particular and focussed and laser-beam specific that he brings the best out of you.” Chatting about Spader’s character Red, Arison remarks: “He doesn’t kill people who deserve to be killed. Reddington has a code. I love that line when he killed that beautiful paramedic and he said, ‘You’re a paramedic and so young,’ but he had to [kill her anyway]. It was the only way for him to maintain his secret in the series.” As for that infamous scene between Spader and himself, Arison says he didn’t know if that would be the end of his character, but that’s what he says “is so good about this show … [that] it’s so hard to predict.” In line with that, Arison says even when Aram was using his skills under pressure, he didn’t know what he was doing. He states, “I thought I was doing this thing against my ethical code, but I was doing what I had to, to live.”

While Arison isn’t sure how long his character will last, he does promise some exciting things to come – including cameo appearances from both Dianne Wiest, Zach Grenier and Jennifer Ehle. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Grenier will play “Novak,” a man “who works under the front of a taxidermy workshop but actually deals with an underworld of rare and exotic antiques.” Ehle, on the other hand, will play “Madeline Pratt,” a “formidable businesswoman” with a past linked to Red. We can expect to see both of them in episode 13, “Madeline Pratt (No. 73).” As for Wiest, TV Line reports that she will join the fray in episode 15 “The Judge (No. 57),” as the “kind, kind, sympathetic head of Amnesty United, an organization that fights against the death penalty.” Arison declares these guest stars – as well as actors from The Wire – “the crème de la crème” for both Blacklisters and non-Blacklisters alike. But that’s not all we should expect… Arison says we will soon learn a “very curious and interesting back-story to one of our main characters” and we’ll potentially witness a “Cyber warfare situation.” It goes without saying then that the best of The Blacklist is yet to come.

The Blacklist airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC