Ryan Eggold has taken the character of Tom Keen to new heights of audience adoration on NBC’s breakout hit The Blacklist. What could have been just another detestable T.V. cad has been injected with a certain humanity. In his layered portrayal, Eggold has effectively created a swoon-worthy heartthrob out of what is basically a lying sociopath. No easy feat. But one can’t help but wonder if it were another actor, would any of us care so much about the outcome of our beloved Liz and Tom? Or insist that the character continuously return for our own selfish entertainment, even if it involves him murdering perfectly innocent people while resembling a terrifying Neo-Nazi?
It appears Tom Keen, a.k.a Jacob Phelps, a.k.a Ryan Eggold has entered that exclusive “no matter WHAT!” club in which the audience is willing to accept anything he does as long as we can have him back for just one more episode. Is that borderline mass obsession? Or just good acting? Congruently, Eggold should be praised for a job well done…and for unintentionally making monsters of us all. As always, as in the case of our interview, the devil is in the details.
“Did I mention I’m currently living in a small closet?!” Eggold exclaims, leaving me unsure of how firmly his tongue is placed in his cheek. This is the description of his current residence in New York City (2015), a metropolis notoriously famous for its tiny urban abodes. The Blacklist is shot on the East Coast, so he recently relocated to a place he’s wanted to live for a while: “At this point in my life, I think I do prefer New York a little. I love California, and I’ve lived in L.A. for many years, and I may end up back there at some point in my life, but for now, I’m very happy here.” He coughs due to a recent tonsillectomy, but he remains genuinely playful: “I love New York. It’s getting warmer now, the moods are improving, and the clothes are coming off. It’s all very exciting.”
Yes, Ryan Eggold is devilishly handsome, but there’s a slightly darker sense of fun just under the surface. A more wicked charm than most perhaps, or maybe an intelligence that makes you fully aware that, if you were to fumble, he could verbally destroy you. Not bad for the self-proclaimed “theater nerd” that studied at USC. For that reason, I tread a little more carefully. The actor brandishes a familiar wit — Russell Brand and Eddie Izzard come to mind –you don’t want to Tango with, he seems the sort who would enjoy a good argument and win. As for bantering, well, that should be safe enough. Right?
I feel immediately comfortable with Ryan (he’s genuinely friendly), but then that underlying wit does make him seem a little bit dangerous. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s proved to serve him very well on the show, allowing him to hold his own with the force of nature that is James Spader. On working with Spader, he explains how he approached it: “I forget that this is the person I watched and admired growing up. He’s so good, it’s a joy working with him, but I have to focus on the scene at hand. This job is strange sometimes in that way; you have to divorce yourself from how you saw actors you admire. Does that make sense? It’s a vision of a person from a separate life. If you don’t, you will get distracted. I make an active effort to see him as a co-worker, which is odd, as I LOVE all his movies.”
FANCY A QUICKIE WITH RYAN? HERE’S 5!
What’s your personal style? You don’t seem the sloppy sort. I imagine you dress like a smart teacher. Easy, comfortable and lazy… generally. I dress nothing like Tom! Nothing! (Laughs) What did you last binge-watch? In Romania, five seasons of Game of Thrones in a week or two was devastated by the Red Wedding episode. SPOILER ALERT: he gets an arrow through the heart and just says, “mother.” [NB I’ve never seen GOT.] What did you listen to last on your iPod? It sounds odd, but Bach. People-watching in New York while listening to Bach is kind of amazing.What don’t we know? Are you good at carpentry? I AM. I am an amazing carpenter! No, but I can do accents and impressions. (*His impression of Eddie Redmayne is actually a spot-on Mick Jagger!) What do you do that has nothing to do with your job? I write songs, I play guitar, piano and I sing. Well, I did before I had a tonsillectomy.. I put a song out for fun, from Lucky Them… I wrote another one called “Love Song.” I really liked that. It was folksy, you could say. But, I need to go back to the Bach question: I also like listening to Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger was a lightning bolt of strange talent sent from above.