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Jake Weber Interview
Q: Okay, so Mr. Gregory Devry is trying to pass himself off as the real Raymond Reddington – what's that all about?
A: Yes. He is an old associated and friend of Ray Reddington's and together they conspire to run a scam that ends in a very surprising manner. We don't know the extent of their history together, but they have evidently been close at one point in time.
Q: What exactly is the scheme and what are they trying to effect from it?
A: Raymond Reddington is running a scheme that will protect him from his colleagues' suspension that he may be an informant for the FBI, and he uses his colleague, Devry, to checkmate a particular antagonist of his within the organized crime syndicate and to exculpate him from their suspicions. That's the right word is it? But you get the idea.
Q: Well, it's my understanding that Devry is pretending to be Reddington. So how is that part of the scheme exactly?
A: The scheme is that Gregory Devry will come in and claim that the real Reddington is an imposter and that he, Devry, is the real Reddington, and that the man they know as Raymond Reddington is someone else entirely, and so there is a lot of back and forth about who's identity is whose.
Q: When you go into a character like this, how do you approach him? I mean, he's trying to pass himself off as Reddington, but who is he really?
A: Well nobody knows who he is, so I have to make that up.
Q: Then who is he to you?
A: As it developed, it became clear to me that this was a man who was very different from the character that James Spader plays, and both Mr. Spader and the producers were both adamant that there not be any kind of an impression or imitation of James Spader. For me, one tends to make up backstorys on these guys if you don't have anything on the page, and for me, my backstory with him was that he was indebted to Raymond Reddington for his life. Reddington had saved his daughter from a very dangerous situation and that he owed Reddington his life; that they were associates but that my character worked more in the European and East European worlds, and that Reddington worked mostly in the States, but that there was crossover. And that they were lovers. Well, that last little thing is a joke.
Q: I'm glad you clarified that.
Q: Cause that's certainly a reveal about Reddington I haven't heard before.
A: Then put that in! [laughs]
Q: Well, tell me how you went about developing this character. Since he's not an imitation of Spader, how did you go about constructing the sensibilities and mannerisms and even the look of Devry?
A: They had established a look for him which was not dissimilar from James Spader's look. There was some back and forth about whether he would wear a hat, and that was eventually rejected. But he wears a three-piece suit like Reddington's, and he's a sophisticated, urbane man. All that was on the script was basically that he was a mannered man. So I'm really, in my work, I tended to move away from that because they really wanted a strong distinction between Spader and me, so I didn't want to muddy the waters with too much reference to him, and Spader was also adamant that I not make reference to him in any way, shape or form.
It was originally my idea to drop in a few of his, the cadence of Spader's speech, and maybe a couple of his mannerisms just to, I thought it would be fun between Spader and me to have a playfulness about this that the audience would look at and wouldn't know exactly what was going on but knew that it was some sort of dialogue between these two men that they didn't understand but that would then pay dividends later on when we see the reveal that they were indeed colleagues and friends. But that wasn't something that Mr. Spader was interested in, and I think he was right about that, so I went a different direction with it. So I went with a direction that was basically as different from him as I could possibly be.
Q: What was it about the role – or was it an opportunity to play opposite Spader – that attracted you to this?
A: I work for a living, and I take what is offered to me if I feel what is offered to me is of interest and is going to be lucrative, and I've always enjoyed watching James Spader so it was of interest to me to work alongside of him and it's a good show.
Q: Were you a fan of the series before signing on?
A: I was not familiar with the show before I received the offer to work on it, and then I watched a couple of episodes and decided that it was very well done.
Q: What was the most fun part of being in this episode?
A: Um…let me think about that. I don't mean to be facetious. It was a fun part to play. He's not who you think he is. He's mysterious and he's hard to pin down, so there's some fun in playing that. You've got to move fast in TV. There's not a lot of time for inspiration and a bunch of takes a different way, you've got to do it paint by the numbers and this was no exception. You basically had to do it, and get it the way the director and James Spader wanted it and then move on. If we'd been working on a feature, there would have been more time to mess around and really enjoy it. It was a juicy role and it was fun to play. I'd wished we'd had time to play more with it.
Q: When you go in playing someone who is obviously a villain, how do you tap into a person with, if you will, moral deficiencies and still make him a well-rounded, interesting character?
A: I usually try to not judge them in moral terms, but rather in his level of hardness; his level of ruthlessness. There are things that have to be done, and there are hard people in the world who have to do them. And that sometimes involves cruelty and Machiavellian scenarios. But there are dirty deeds and people who have to do them. So I try to think of characters like this as not morally flawed, but doing what they see as necessary for the greater good, whether that's their own greater good or the good of their ambition. They are not cynical, but pragmatic. And then you just have to find moments of vulnerability where there hardness is fractured, and that's how you humanized them. And then if you can make them funny, that's even more enjoyable for people to watch them.
It was initially my instinct to make him, to reference James Spader – some of his mannerisms, some of his inflections. But only tangentially, and quickly; briefly, so that there would be just a hint of: What a minute…was that? Isn't that what Spader does? No, no, this guy's a whole different thing. But then I was asked to pull back from that and make him a completely different person, so then I reinvented him from my own brief biography of him.
Q: Considering he's a blacklister, he's due for his comeuppance – what sort of fate does he meet in the end?
A: He dies at the end. As it turns out, the plan all along is that this character was going to be killed by James Spader's character, by Raymond Reddington. And it turns out that he is terminally ill, and the way that he can repay Raymond Reddington, in my biography that I made up for this guy, for saving his daughter's life was by offering his own to extricate Raymond Reddington from the tricky situation he had found himself in with the FBI.
Q: Wow! That's some serious payback…
A: Yeah it is. [laughs] Well, I had to find some justification for why he would give up his life like that, and there's nothing in the script, you know. I mean, I would give up my life for my son and my wife, and you know. That's all I could come up with. And no one else knows that. That's the shit that actor's do, you know.
Q: Well, it definitely gives a deeper sense of his devotion to Reddington.
A: I don't know if it's so much his devotion to Reddington as it is gratitude to Reddington. And he is ready to die, and he's going to die and there's an interesting [pauses]…no, that's it. That's all you need to say about it.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add about your work on the show?
A: Underneath my suit I'm wearing panties. No one would ever know that – just you, me and the readers.
Q: So is this the same kind of reveal as the one about Devry and Reddington being lovers?
A: It is. It is. They fell in love in Indonesia, and [laughs] they've always pined for each other. [laughs] Nah, I think my guy was jilted. Reddington jilted him. And I'm going to stop now before I get into all kinds of trouble with everyone.