Actor Name: Waleed Zuaiter
Hired by the government of Iran in retaliation for the murder of one of Iran’s top scientists, a nuclear scientist who was killed by a joint effort of Mossad and the CIA. The Scimitar, as he is known, is this very mysterious hit man, but he is also two-thirds a con artist as well.
Waleed Zuaiter Interview
Q: Could you describe your character and his crimes?
A: He is the Scimitar. He is basically a little mysterious. But it is clear he was hired by the government of Iran in retaliation for the murder of one of Iran’s top scientists, a nuclear scientist who was killed by a joint effort of Mossad and the CIA. The Scimitar, as he is known, is this very mysterious hit man, but he is also two-thirds a con artist as well. He is like a chameleon, no one really knows what he looks like and he morphs into different characters. They referenced this one operation where he was going after a Sunni tribal leader, so he joined his group for seven months and became very close to him, and was over his house for dinner one night and so close to him he just killed him.
Q: How does he morph into others?
A: That is the interesting thing about the writing. I found in the writing of the episode a lot was left to my imagination. And from watching some of the show and getting a feel for the style of the show it was so much more of an internal and emotional switch instead of physical. The Scimitar, at his true essence, has this really kind of untamable energy and when he goes into these different characters, there is calmness to him. It is not like you see him go from one disguise to another. Also that makes it kind of creepy in a way, so much more nuanced and so much more intense.
Q: Why do you think Reddington has targeted your character?
A: Reddington knows him from past association. He is in the same criminal world as him. Samar is involved in this story. Reddington knows this is her area and that she actually killed the Iranian scientist. The Scimitar is going after U.S. top scientists, in retaliation for the Iranian hit. It is like he is personally invested in this mission or doing a for-hire kind of thing. We played around with both when we were filming, and this is where Reddington comes into the mix. He brings along Samar. There is a history with my character and it involves the death of her a relative.
Q: How did you prepare to portray this villain?
A: My preparation is different for every role. For this, some of it was lack of sleep. The most stressful thing with me in playing this character is he is so different from me. You are playing a cold-blooded murderer at the end of the day. I have this incessant obsession with making it as real as possible and as grounded as possible. He is the Scimitar but pretending to be Dr. Rivera. He is the attending doctor on duty at Bethesda National Hospital when Keen and Ressler get brought in.
Q: Do you think anyone will ever be able to outsmart Reddington?
A: Perhaps – if they know the soft spot, which I think would probably be something on the emotional side.
Q: What is it that appeals so much about playing a villain?
A: That is part of the reason I couldn’t sleep at night. Because usually the villain is so different from you in terms of you get an opportunity to play out your deepest darkest secrets, the things you would never do in real life. You get to bring them to reality and in a way that is free. And that is the thing about this show, about James Spader’s character, you are watching him and there is a sense of tension. You have no idea what will happen next. It is very interesting to watch, very energizing and unpredictable and very dangerous. And that is what I wanted. I wanted it to be very real and I wanted it to be very courageous and bold and committed. It is a character that is larger than life. To make something larger than life also very real and relatable, that is what attracts actors to playing the villain.
Q: What is it like working with The Blacklist cast?
A: It was great. It was very fast-paced but that is very normal for network television. There is a really good thing about working at that pace. There’s no time to think, just do. Those first instincts are often the best so I think that was part of my experience.
Q: What was your experience like on set?
A: The crew seemed to work together very well and they are also very respectful of my needing privacy. A big part of the time I was unconsciously in character in my own head and being a weirdo and people were very respectful.
Q: Does Scimitar survive or can he return?
A: He does not survive but that doesn’t mean he cannot return. That’s the experienced actor’s response.