The Knockturnal had the opportunity to sit down with Edi Gathegi of the upcoming NBC spin-off, “Blacklist: Redemption” to discuss his role on the show, his successes and his careening career.
Achieving a spin-off is a rarity. For one, the show has to not only be wildly successful, it has to remain relevant. Most spin-offs occur in a very controlled, static and banal environment. Many think of sitcoms, comedies, game shows and other family television genres. They don’t require the same sort of rigorous plot development, multifaceted characterization or cinematographic prowess. All they need is a laugh-track, a few hapless individuals and a one-dimensional story to get the ball rolling.
Then again, that was before the golden age of television. Now, somber, gritty and realistic television populates the primetime slots, exposing humanistic nuances that previous shows seldom explored. Realism–or television’s version of it–has become the new norm of televisual language. What used to be dictated by escapism has now transitioned to verisimilitude, leading to the creation of dark, conspiratorial TV show like “The Blacklist.” The entertainment appetites of Americans have begun to change, as showcased by “The Blacklist’s” wild commercial and critical success, leaving one to wonder: where to from here?
Wanting to expand the franchise further, NBC had commissioned “Blacklist: Redemption,” a new spin-off to the established series. Starring Famke Janssen, Ryan Eggold and Edi Gathegi among others, “Blacklist: Redemption” tells the story of Halcyon Aegis, a private military company that operates below the radar with a mercenary team of operatives. In a “Suicide Squad”-like fashion, the operatives are the epitome of the anti-hero.
And no other character on the show screams internal conflict like Edi Gathegi’s character, Matias Solomon, a former CIA asset accused of committing war crimes. We had the chance to sit down with the actor to talk about his character’s potential for redemption, his upcoming indie projects and the show’s relevance in today’s world.
Fans Make You Relevant
It often takes a long time to break into Hollywood. It’s a grind that is arduous to say the least. But nothing sounds more like “Hallelujah” being sung by a choir than finding regular work on a television show. Jobs begin popping up, calls are returned and soon enough, you gain the elusive quality of fandom. For Gathegi, this is arguably the greatest asset.
“As an artist you go from job to job and you never know where your path will take you” said the actor. Speaking of his time working on the megahit “Blacklist,” Gathegi explains that “this job has been wonderful because of the support from the viewers.” Gathegi believes that his time on “Blacklist” “kept me relevant, which is always good because you know people were supporting the work and in supporting the work they are finding opportunities for me to get more work.”
The actor went on to add, “I’ve done big budget films, I’ve done cable TV shows, I’ve done network television shows and now I’ve got a handful of independent films, very tiny movies and we are going to put them through the festivals.” This eclectic repertoire means that the actor is “usually flying from one set in New York to Puerto Rico.” It seems the actor has no signs of stopping those opportunities that the fans have bestowed him with.
The Chance to Dive Deeper
Before the launch of “Blacklist: Redemption,” Gathegi’s character was a recurring role. He seldom made regular appearances, save for challenging and exposing the protagonist’s vulnerabilities. There was little room to flush out the nuances of Solomon. But now with this new spin-off, Gathegi has the opportunity to explore his character’s role in the universe that is “Blacklist” to an even greater degree.
Whatever actions Solomon performs, it seems that it is nothing morally reprehensible. “From Solomon’s point of view, business is business, it’s water under the bridge. He had to do what he had to do.” The actor explains that this dynamism from Solomon “makes for a wonderful edge set chemistry and rivalry.” Providing a mild hint, the actor ponders, “who knows, maybe some people might get forgiven,” before interpreting, “I think it’ll go back and forwards.”
On Being the Quintessential Anti-Hero
It’s hard to make a villain likable in a television setting. Viewers need easily digestible psychic roles of the melodramatic sort. Those roles need to be fulfilled and the villain is arguably the most important one to assign. And yet, character complexities have enabled viewers to identify with the wrongdoer lately. From Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson on “Boardwalk Empire” to Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” the anti-hero has become the new protagonist. And Gathegi’s role as Solomon on “Redemption” is no different.
“It’s a challenge [to be a villain]. The producers were concerned about that but I think the audiences in a way loved to hate Mr. Solomon,” explained Gathegi. The Twilight star added, “we are bad guys doing bad things but for a good cause. We are the anti-heroes and to that end I think the show is lighter perhaps and has more charm.”
Catch “Blacklist: Redemption” Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.