Christina Cole Interview
Q: How did you come to be involved in the show as a Blacklister?
A: I believe that my agent had some information about cast members they needed, and so I think that he pitched me for it. Yeah, that's how it came about really. I didn't go in and read for it, so I believe that's how it came about.
Q: According to what I understand about a "djinn," it's sort of a magical genie, is that the case here?
A: Yes, exactly because she the lady in white, yeah, exactly, she's sort of a hypnotic, make-your-dreams-come-true kind of character, yeah.
Q: What are her powers and how she them uses for evil?
A: People come to her through a website in order to get vengeance basically, they're normally vengeance scenarios, where they've dreamt up something as a revenge dream and she makes it happen. But she does make a point of saying that they only select, they only say, 'Yes,' to certain things. They doesn't say 'Yes,' to all the jobs that she meets for. I don't know what that specific criteria is. I would image it, because it's all probably illegal, it would something where they could hold her over a barrel on this. So if they were then able to blackmail them, they wouldn't do it, of course. But if they're able to blackmail the client, then they could accept the job.
Q: Then would she be working for Red in this episode?
A: She's working for Reddington at this point. He's heard about her, and he wants to make what she does, what she markets, to work for him to his advantage. So he's using her. He's not aware that she works for somebody, and as far as anyone is concerned she is villainous person that no one's been able to catch, she's a blacklister, and then it transpires that she is actually working for somebody. So in the context of the piece, when we meet her, she makes two revenge dreams happen and then gets caught out.
Q: So this was an episode that you came to New York to shoot? Not a special London episode or anything.
A: Yeah, just came over for a week and shot my scenes and left again. I mean, if you think about it, it's not that much more, I mean it's more in the distance, but the timing is not much more than it is from L.A. to New York, so I believe it isn't uncommon for them to cast out of the U.K. anyway, obviously.
Q: Yes, it takes about six, sometimes seven, hours for me to get from Los Angeles to New York, and about five to six going back.
A: Yeah, which is exactly the same length for us. It's five and a half or six from New York to London and about seven and a half on the way there.
Q: Sounds like it may even be quicker to go from London to New York than from L.A. to New York?
A: Yeah, exactly. We can start a whole new trend. [laughs]
Q: When did you pop over to shoot this?
A: About a month ago, three weeks ago.
Q: Was your experience on-set worth the trip?
A: It was a great experience. It's a very well run machine, and it's obviously been running for a while now. The two leads are very much in the flow of their characters and I think they are fantastic and it was really great for me to work with them. James is very much himself as Reddington and it's very interesting as a villain yourself playing opposite that so it's quite electric to play that with him. And, of course, it's shot in New York. Who doesn't want to work in New York? It was great. A really enjoyable experience.
Q: What was interesting for you about getting to play this character and her interactions with Reddington and Liz?
A: She was hired, and she is aware of who Reddington is, as part of her job, she would come across types like him, and of course, she is a famous blacklister by now, so I think it's a shock to her when he lands at her door, so I don't think she's really ready for it. But she's a fascinating character because at first you don't know she's the lady in white, that she is the connecting party. And it's really fascinating how she came into the job, and how she deals with Reddington when confronted in that situation because it could have gone anywhere. She has children. She has a life. She things at stake, and he's there and he's pressing and he's threatening her, and she could lose everything in that moment. And, instead, he offers her a deal. So I think she's somebody, because by the time Reddington meets her, she's used to living life on the edge. It's become quite an addiction, because I think when she actually goes into the job she's never done anything quite like that before. What she does for people is quite sickening and she manages to turn this job into a complete alter ego. So she goes to work, and does that and then is able to completely switch off and go back to her life. She's very much like you or I, but her job [laughs] is not like you or I, and it's completely breaking the law. So it's quite interesting to me: What makes that person? What makes person do that job? What makes that person carry on doing that job? And how they sit with it, and then how they deal with it when confronted, when the shit hits the fan basically? So, yeah, that was an interesting thing to play.
Q: In speaking with other actors about playing villains, not only for The Blacklist, but in other series and films, one thing many often say is that they can't judge the character they're playing. That they have to find something human or relatable in that character. Is that the same for you when playing a character like this?
A: Exactly, exactly, and that's what I was trying to sort of, probably not very well, put across, is that she is a real person, but her choice is probably through circumstances that, you know, she's a single parent and she's been on her own and she's able to compartmentalize. It's amazing what makes a person have that kind of thick skin, and maybe those of us who would have more of a conscience would say, "No," but she doesn't quite have that.
Q: Speaking of her mask, I'm curious how you developed the look for the lady in white. Did you have something in mind for her when you went into the role?
A: They've kept her as sort of a modern style, ethereal genie so she has to be eye-catching to men. That is why she was hired, and that is why she is the lady in white, because that's a part of her appeal, you now. She does make a point in saying that most of her clients are men – it's not that only men want to act out revenge – it just so happens that is the case. But there is something which is enigmatic and warm about her character and the way she dresses that makes one feel at peace, like, 'Oh, yeah, she's going to be able to solve all of my problems. She's gonna handle this. Yeah, it's gonna be fine.' So it all adds to her overall product. I mean, if she just turned up in jeans and a shabby haircut then I don't think people would trust her as much. She has to look the part. When you go to the bank, you want to see someone that you feel you can sort of trust them, I don't know why, but we all have a sort of image of a person in mind for, say, our hairdresser or the masseuse; our yoga instructor. If you could sort of dress like you could fit that bill, that sort of helps in our society to go, 'Ah, yes, right.' When somebody sort of dresses outside of the parameters of what they are it makes us feel a bit unsafe. And her whole thing is about making people feel comfortable and safe, and that she can make dreams come true. And they were pretty on it, to be honest with you, the costume designer [Christine Bean] was great. She's amazing. And when I came in, we tried on a lot of things, and I had sort of an imagine in mind and so when I came in, I said, 'I was sort of thinking about this…" and she said, 'That's exactly what I thought.' And so we tried on everything. In white. [laughs] And it basically was what we had in our minds would work.
Q: Will it be a big deal for you in the U.K. to be guest starring on this show? Do you have a sense of the show's popularity there?
A: Oh my god. There are so many people here who watch it. There's a huge fan base over here. It's great for me, because it has its own profile over here so, yeah. I believe it's as much watched over here as it is in the U.S.
Q: I was wondering if you're seeing the work you're doing in American television increasing enough to lure you to the States?
A: It's funny, because in the U.S. they're very happy to sort of shop worldwide, and I think everybody does now. Everybody seems to be able to work everywhere in the world now. We get so many actors from the U.S. working over here on the West End in films, etcetera, etcetera. It's the same kind of thing. So I have lived in New York. I lived in New York for a couple of years, and then came back for a lot of different reasons really, and I've managed to work about half and half career, so it sort of suits me at the moment to live and work here and then I can work in the States as well. But I really, I live and work in both places because I do live half the time either in New York and L.A. anyway, so I'm split between the two places.
Q: In the work you've done, you're definitely doing a lot of diverse character work. When you're looking at a project, it is really the character that draws you in, or are there other factors that make you want to say, 'Yes,' to a project?
A: Hmmm…I think it's two things: It is the character, and it is the project itself. Depends on the content of the story and if there's enough meat on the bones of s role that sort of draws you toward it. Like, for example, the villain in The Blacklist. There's a lot going on for her, she's not a two dimensional character, she's very much a three dimensional character, and you really want to sort of work out why, it's like you said, you really have to empathize with her, where has she come from, in order to be able to play those traits of a character to an audience. So if I can understand where a character is coming from and the role excites me within the context of the script, then that's what excites me and draws me toward something.
Q: But from the sounds of things, it's been a very good year for you.
A: Yeah, it has. It's been good. Really, really good. I've really enjoyed it. I've been very lucky.