Known for his roles in “The Visitor,” “Girls,” and “Vamps,” Amir Arison talks about his new show “The Blacklist” airing on NBC Monday nights at 10 p.m. EST.
Q: How did you land your role on “The Blacklist”?
Arison: I never know what’s going to hit, and what’s not going to hit and what works. You just got to love what you do, and do what you love, and the rest is a bonus. This is a giant big bonus that I never anticipated in a million years. I was in New York shooting for “Girls,” and I was submitted by my agent for this role that was called Morgan Hagget, which was the original name given to the FBI tracking analysis and when I got the scene, it was for the third episode in the show, and the show hadn’t premiered yet and it wasn’t the big hit that it is now. The only description of him, [my character] was, ‘he loved his gadgets more than his goatee.’ Well loved his gadgets means he loves what he does, he’s into what he does, I love what I do. I love acting. I have a great deal of joy that I get from my work, this character gets a great deal of joy that he gets from his work, so I’m going to meld the two and bring as much of me that I can to this role. I wanted to have as much fun with this role; otherwise I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. So I went there and saw a lot of talented guys for this part, with all different kinds of ethnicities, and all age ranges. I went in and just had fun with it, and the director of that episode who is now our producing director, Michael Watkins, just raised his hand and said, ‘thank you, that’s how you make the guy fun and interesting and make the information clear,” and I just didn’t overthink it to be honest.
Q: Can you further the evolution of your character on the show?
Arison: It’s been extraordinary and exciting and it’s really the first time in my career that I feel the producers and the writers are writing from my natural voice. I’m a character actor on the inside but this is as close to my actual persona as any of my careers on television. How I evolved was really magical. Because I tried to have as much fun with it as I can, when I got the part and I got the script, I saw the character Morgan Hagget wasn’t in there so I was like who am I playing? So I looked up the scene that I had auditioned with and that scene was reworked and given to Parminder Nagra’s character, Agent Malik. This was a brand new prime time NBC show and I had no idea who I was playing. It was the third episode, and by process of elimination I figured I was Aram Mojtabai. I flipped to the first page of Aram, and it felt like he was trying too hard, but was really good at what he does. Coming off of “Girls,” I felt a lot of improv energy, even though “The Blacklist” is a totally non-improvisational show. One time during filming I don’t remember what I said but they kept it. I couldn’t believe that they kept it and that’s when I knew there was a chance that they could bring me back. When I eventually met the show creator, like six episodes later, he even said we really appreciated when you did that; you really gave him a personality. I started getting scripts that had jokes that I would normally make, and I’m still pinching myself that it happened this way.
Q: How can you describe the evolution of the show, as well as the evolution of James Spader’s character?
Arison: James Spader is very involved, he talks to the producers, and we are on his show. It’s an incredible character that is so perfectly cast, and endlessly, mesmerizingly portrayed by one of our national treasures, James Spader. I’m a fan of the show and it’s the most I’ve been recognized for.
Q: Is there anything you can say about the upcoming episodes?
Arison: Well Diane Wiest is going to be in the episode that we are about to start shooting. Other than that, there is not too much I could say.
Q: Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?
Arison: I would just say thanks for watching and stay tuned, good stuff is coming. There’s other stuff coming out—there’s a Robin Williams movie that’s going to coming next holiday time called, “A Very Friggin’ Christmas,” starring Robin Willaims and Joel McHale and I play an Afghan who speaks no English. There is a film called “Jane wants a Boyfriend,” which I did with Eliza Dushku, and she played my wife. It was a really sweet romantic comedy. I did a movie last year called “Big Words,” which is kind of a hip-hop dramatic comedy, which started screening on Netflix. And the Julia Stiles’ series “Blue,” I did a have a few episodes in that as a club owner.
Catch Amir Arison in “The Blacklist” on NBC, Monday’s at 10 p.m. EST.
Photo Courtesy of NBC.
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