'Blacklist' stars relish their roles.

AuthorMoore, Frazier

Byline: Frazier Moore

NEW YORK -- They set "The Blacklist'' in Washington, but in truth it inhabits a Manhattan studio where "Law & Order'' lived for two decades. Judging from its out-of-the-gate robust ratings, good reviews and swift full-season pickup, this new NBC crime thriller could be settling in for a long stay of its own.

Recently, filming dwelled in the FBI's cavernous, mood-lit War Room, where world-class criminal "Red'' Reddington has held forth since, for reasons unknown, he surrendered to authorities to help them catch the high-profile outlaws he used to assist. Even more puzzling, he has agreed to switch sides on the strict condition that he only deals with rookie FBI profiler Liz Keen.

These unlikely partners are played by James Spader and Megan Boone, and an all-important chemistry between them clicked right away, like the rest of the series, which arrived last month with remarkable sure-footedness, spared any hint of new-show confusion and doubt.

"Oh,'' laughs Spader on hearing this assessment, "there's a LOT of confusion and doubt! We don't know WHAT we're doing yet! But we're getting it done. By Monday night at 10 o'clock, we're getting it done!"

Spader, a veteran of dozens of films as well as TV series that include "Boston Legal'' and "The Office,'' has fastened on a short break from filming to step into the afternoon sunshine, light a cigarette and talk with a reporter.

"I might have been looking for him,'' Spader muses when asked how he came to play Reddington. "I wanted someone who was irreverent, and, even at the most difficult times, saw the irony in the world around him. And he's really not afraid of the unknown. I don't think he's afraid of...

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