Actor Name: Ryan Eggold
Ryan Eggold stars as Tom Keen, the loving and easygoing (but secretive) husband to Elizabeth Keen in the AXN drama “The Blacklist.”
On the big screen, Eggold recently wrapped “Lucky Them” opposite Toni Collette and Thomas Hayden Church, and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hers” with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. In 2014 Eggold will appear in Tyler Perry’s “Single Moms Club” and in the independent feature “Beside Still Waters.”
Eggold is well-known as a regular on the hit CW series “90210.” His other television credits include the FX series “Dirt” and a recurring role on HBO’s “Entourage.”
Born and raised in Southern California, Eggold is a graduate of USC’s theater program. He is a music and theater aficionado and an accomplished musician, singer, director, and playwright.
Ryan Eggold Interview
Q: Why do you think Tom Keen wound up on Reddington’s Blacklist?
A: Tom wound up on Reddington's Blacklist because he crossed the line, and I think there was a plan in place and something started happening to Tom in regards to Liz. I don’t think even Tom understands yet and he went off the reservation, so to speak, and deviated completely from the plan and was a rebel of sorts. I guess he was surprised by his emotions.
Q: What is his relationship to Liz? Clearly the woman is justifiably furious with Tom. Why is he trying to re-enter her life? Why is he still contacting her?
A: I think Tom is discovering parts of himself that he didn’t know were there or had been long dormant. He was picked up as a kid by this guy, The Major (Lance Henriksen). He was an orphan and in foster homes and he didn’t have any role models or parents. He was stealing on the streets to get by but he didn’t have any foundations of human relationships. On top of that he gets groomed by this guy to be a killer and be efficiently violent to manipulate people and wear different masks and personas and he becomes very, very good at it. And it is all he knows. He has not spent his entire life developing real relationships or being in love so now I think for the first time he is discovering he does not need to be violent and wants something more and that might be with Liz.
Q: Why does he survive the Blacklist as opposed to the others who are killed?
A: I think Tom is a survivor. He was surviving by himself on the street as a kid and different foster homes, he was surviving incredible situations his whole life. He became very comfortable with danger and violence and very adept at sneaking out and sliding by and manipulating people and surviving. That is one of his strong suits. And another aspect as to why he survives is Liz. I don’t think Liz knows exactly how she feels about Tom. She is certainly very mad at him and a part of her is very curious and she did feel something for a long time. And she still feels something. Reddington is smart enough to read people and know that Liz is not being totally honest about her feelings for Tom, and Reddington's reservation in eliminating Tom and what it might do to Liz. As much as Reddington does not want to admit it, there is a real relationship with Tom and Liz that Reddington can use to his own advantage. Reddington is a shark in his own right.
Q: Why does he come back to the United States after his assignment in Germany?
A: Tom comes back because he does not want to see Liz go down for what he did. It is a huge turning point for Tom. In the past he has let millions of people go down. But he is discovering his feelings for Liz. He doesn’t fully understand yet and he develops a conscience and comes back to do the right thing which is a rare moment in his life which is brought out by Liz.
Q: How did he come into Liz’s life to begin with?
A: Tom approached Liz. I forget where they met. I don’t think they ever said or defined that. Tom was posing as this really sweet schoolteacher and he was the one who approached her and charmed her. She kind of felt sorry for him. He is skilled charmer.
I think their romance was fairly ordinary, even if it was by design. They had dates with Chinese takeout and restaurants and all that kind of business. Liz was in a harder world in that she was training to be an FBI agent and a profiler and this guy was very sweet and unassuming kind and she was attracted to that.
Q: Is there anything in the episode that might be confusing?
A: We may wonder what Tom’s motivations are about coming back, but I think it will be fairly clear
Q: How has Tom evolved over the course of the series?
A: More than ever he is evolving tremendously. He has been sort of the same guy for a long, long time. We are waiting to see what the change is, if it is for better or worse. Liz has changed him and encouraged a feeling. He can be honest, he can he be sincere. But can he take the mask off? The evolution happening with him is discovering who he is and what he wants and why he is doing this – all the basic essential questions. Everyone is constantly asking those questions.
Q: How do you describe Tom?
A: Tom is efficient and trained. He has sociopathic tendencies. He is definitely intelligent. He is violent.
Q: What have been his crimes?
A: He has had countless crimes. His biggest crime, as it relates to our show, is conning Liz and pretending to be someone he isn't. And, he has killed numerous people. He killed the harbormaster. It is all he has known.
Q: What is his connection to Reddington?
A: Reddington was aware of Tom as an agent. He hired Tom. In subsequent episodes, he hired Tom to enter Liz’s life to keep an eye on her.
Q: How did you prepare to portray Tom?
A: When he was the simple schoolteacher there wasn’t a tremendous amount of preparation. He is a lot closer to me in the sense that I am a more mild guy as opposed to the assassin person, which I am not in real life. I don’t have any experience killing anyone. That has been a stretch. The more physical we can make these the better. He is very physically trained and fit. He has been trained to be a weapon. Doing the fight training and the stunts things like that help me feel what it is like to be this guy.
Q: Did you have to shave your head?
A: I shaved my head in tonight’s episode.
Q: Was that the first time?
A: It was the first time. I have always wanted to, just in general in life, but I also wanted to do it as this character just because I thought a more military approach to his self in terms of the short hair would be closer to who he really is, as an assassin.
Q: Where has Tom been?
A: He disappeared and went after the boat (incident), he has been hiding out, collecting himself, regrouping, getting in touch with his contacts and trying to reestablish contact with The Major, his main employer, to get a new assignment. But this time he doesn’t just need a new assignment for money or to live but he needs a new one to forget about the last one because it is causing him confusion and turmoil. He needs a new mask to hide behind, so he doesn’t have to live in his world, which is confusing to him.
Q: Does he love Liz for real or has it all been a ruse?
A: I don’t think he has ever really loved anyone in his life. The closest he had to love was what he had for The Major, an admiration and fondness the only guy who took him in. He does have feelings for Liz and doesn’t know how to handle it.
Q: Do you think anyone will ever be able to outsmart Reddington?
A: I have to say both yes and no. Reddington is a master manipulator, and intelligent and is an utter professional criminal and a kingpin and at the top of the game and pulling a lot of strings. But he is still a human being and any human being can be tricked or fooled and fall prey to their own feelings and be vulnerable to that. It is possible. If Reddington were to be bested, it would be of his own will. He would let himself be taken for the greater good.
Q: What is it that appeals so much about playing a villain?
A: The main thing that appeals to me, speaking for myself, but for most actors is that villains are not necessarily bound by the rules. The good guy will never do the wrong thing even if it is for the greater good. Villains don’t have to play by the rules and make their own riles and are freer in that way.
Q: What is it like working with The Blacklist cast?
A: It has been great. Everybody is well cast and great in their role. It is a blast. It is a good group to be involved with. Everybody is different and has their own vibe. There is a certain synergy when a group comes together to work.
Q: What is it like on set?
A: It is fun when it is working and not fun when it is not working. Usually you do a scene and it is fine and ordinary and sometimes you do a scene and it is not working the way you want it to and sometimes you get the pleasure and surprising yourself or the other actor and you get a buzz off that and everybody gets excited about that from the makeup artist to the actor to the director.
Q: What would you like to add?
A: I think Tom Keen is such a wonderful character and I am so grateful to be playing him. Tom is not one-dimensional by any means. He has a very full life because he is very alive right now and discovering things about himself and wrestling with a lot. He is almost addicted to hiding behind the mask.
Q: Does he get to stay alive?
A: For now.