Famke Janssen’s youthful appearance belies her age – she’s 50-something. Although the mainstay of her career has been on the big screen with box-office successes like The X-Men franchise, Taken and The Wolverine, she hasn’t explored TV as prominently as she has since being cast as Ava Moore in a recurring role in Nip/Tuck.
Let’s not forget, she was the Bond girl in GoldenEye.
Since then, she’s been getting lots more traction on the small screen with intriguing roles in Hemlock Grove, How to Get Away with Murder, The Blacklist and, more recently,
The Blacklist: Redemption.
In the latter two shows, she plays Susan Scott “Scottie” Hargrave. In the original series, it was evident that she can play hard-ball as well as any man – if not better – in her field of expertise.
For the spin-off series, we get to see a familiar side as well as a concealed vulnerability where her “dead” son is concerned.
Janssen admits: “Scottie is not an easy character to play because there are so many layers to her. She is really complex. I love that about her. But the audience doesn’t really know where they stand with her and sometimes I feel the same way because there are so many twists and turns in the story.”
What we do know is that Scottie has taken over Halcyon Aegis (a covert mercenary organisation working with the US government) now that her husband Howard (Terry O’Quinn), who was the founder of the organisation, has been killed, she believes, in a plane crash.
She ropes in Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold), a skilled operative, on one of her cases. But his ties to her go deeper than even she is aware of.
The actress offers: “Scottie was married. She thinks her husband is dead. It turns out that’s not the case. She had a son who she thought disappeared at the age of three and, unbeknown to her, he’s hired by her husband to work undercover in her company to spy on her.”
She says: “There are a lot of questions that are in play throughout the season. In preparing for her, I have to make sure that ambiguity is sometimes there – that it’s a possibility that she’s really truthful and that people are playing against her or that maybe there is some truth to what they’re saying.”
In a way, this show has a similar narrative style to Mission Impossible.
Janssen says: “Yes, I definitely think it’s more of a mixture. We are not necessarily a procedural show. We have a lot of carry-over throughout the season, or a methodology that’s going on behind the characters and, you know, some very interesting, intriguing moments. You’re going to find out in the future what the truth is. So we do have a Mission Impossible vibe. It’s definitely an international kind of spy thriller.”
When it comes to her character and herself, Janssen reveals: “Well, Scottie and I are two very different people. But, obviously, when I prepare for a character I do put a lot of myself in it because I think the most important part is that I connect with her emotionally and, hopefully, the audience will do so too.”
She continues: “In my own life, I’m much softer, much goofier. I think I have a better sense of humour than Scottie has. She is certainly a complicated woman. And I like complicated women, especially when I get to portray them on film or television. It’s very calming.”
Contextualising the scope of her character in The Blacklist and this show, she says: “When I came on The Blacklist in the last two episodes of the third season, it was simply to introduce the character of Scottie to start the spin-off of Redemption. So it wasn’t that I was a regular character on their show. I always knew going into it that that was the intention. But being the lead in a show – one of the leads in a show – there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it because The Blacklist has been around for four years now and it’s been doing incredibly well. And it has James Spader and other people. So this is added pressure because we are starting a new show.”
She continues: “All of our characters come with a troubled past.”
Hence, the title of the show – all of them are seeking redemption in different ways.
Having explored myriad characters, she does have a character she would like to depict at some point.
Janssen shares: “Sometimes you just find a script and you think, ‘Oh, that’s the role I’ve been waiting for…that people are dreaming of.’ Not that this has anything to do with a specific character but I would like to play, at some point, a historical character, somebody who’s really existed or a very complex kind of character from the past in a period movie. It would be something where I could spend time researching the actual person.
“In the meantime, Scottie is certainly keeping me busy enough and I’m working on independent films. I’ve wrapped up A Little Something for Your Birthday with Sharon Stone. I’ve done a movie with Josh Duhamel called This is Your Death. I’m developing a movie for me to direct because the last movie I directed, Bringing up Bobby, was about five years ago. I want to do that again!”
The Blacklist: Redemption airs on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) on Wednesday at 10pm.