[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from The Blacklist's episode "Tom Keen." Read at your own risk!]
For once, Tom did the right thing... but was it for love?
On Thursday's episode of The Blacklist, Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) returned to the States to turn himself in for killing the DC harbormaster in order to save his ex-wife Liz (Megan Boone) from criminal charges. But before that selfless act, he was hesitant to leave his undercover assignment in Germany.
"I think that's two things: One, he's extraordinarily committed to his job. It's all that sustains him in life and so it's all he has to cling to," Eggold tells TVGuide.com. "He's very good at it, and he's addicted to the mask that he wears, whatever it may be, because he has trouble living with himself or the lack of the life that he has. And then secondly, he doesn't quite know his feelings for Liz. He feels something and is kind of mixed up about it. In the coming episodes, we get very clear on what those feelings are. But I don't think he's really fully aware of how he feels about Liz and whether or not to help her."
His feelings seem pretty clear to other people though. Red (James Spader) went to Germany to tell Tom about Liz's predicament but didn't bother to actually fetch him back, trusting that Tom would choose to return on his own. And after hearing Tom's testimony, the trial's judge commented, "You're in love with her. I won't even try to express how twisted that is."
But it may not be that simple. "It's hard to say," Eggold says. "I think Tom has developed feelings for Liz. I don't think he's ever been in love with a woman. I don't think he's ever had the true love of a parent. I don't know if he's experienced love, and so what he's feeling for Liz is unknown to him."
Check out the rest of our interview with Eggold:
Do you think that unknown quality of his feelings is the reasons why Tom keeps calling her and coming back to her?
Ryan Eggold: Absolutely. He is undeniably drawn to her. He spent two-plus years with the woman, so she's one of the few people in this world that he has a connection to, even if it was under false pretenses at first. He still lived with her and shared a bed with her and showered with her and all of these things, so I don't think that is lost on Tom. I think it affects him.
Does Tom even know who he is? Is it possible he was partly his true self when he was with Liz?
Eggold: I think Tom has questions about himself. He has not gone through the normal, "Who am I?" questions that most of us go through as teenagers, or at whatever age, and have sort of worked out by the time we're young adults to some extent. I don't think he's ever gone through those. And that's kind of where we're headed with this character. He'll finally, whether he likes it or not, be forced to deal with himself and ask those questions.
What was your reaction when you learned Tom's backstory when he was a kid?
Eggold: I thought it was cool. I've been talking with [creator Jon Bokenkamp] for a long time about where they're heading. They are always slowly unraveling their interweb to us, where we get a little more of our characters as we go, which is an interesting way to do it. I dig it. I like that he's this orphaned kid who's streetwise and has to maybe steal things to make a living and get by. He's in and out of foster homes and doesn't necessarily have role models and someone to love him or care for him. So he develops these abilities. He gets trained by The Major to be the perfect agent of manipulation. His lack of love as a kid sort of allows him to divorce himself from relationships.
He was recruited by The Major because he has qualities that make him uniquely suited to be a deep-cover agent. But what are they besides manipulation?
Eggold: Like Red said in the episode, similar to Red, he has sociopathic tendencies, which just means that you sometimes lack empathy for other human beings, which allows him to commit violence and manipulations and earn people's trust and betray them if he needs to. And I think he has a street savvy because he's been in and out of different homes and he's had to learn to adapt to situations very quickly and quickly assess who's who and what's what. He's pick-pocketed a few times, he has slipped under the radar, he's stolen from shops. He basically starts out as a juvenile delinquent in some respects, and then gets trained to be very adept at some of those things.
Now that Tom is in the wind again, he needs a new assignment! What's next for him?
Eggold: What's next for Tom is in the realm of "Who am I really?" Tom is about to look at himself for the first time and wonder who is without permission, without a job or without a mask. And maybe discover that real person, whoever the heck that is.
Will we soon delve into his background with Red?
Eggold: Yes. Red and Tom's relationship will be explained in the very near future. Tom knows a great deal about Red, certainly more than Liz knows. That will come into play.
How was it to play a badass with the shaved head? Did you buzz it off in that scene yourself?
Eggold: I did it. We just had one take, and they handed me a razor and put me in front of a mirror and shaved my head. It was fun. I've always wanted to do that because I've never shaved my head. I thought it was great for the character on so many levels; he's sort of shedding the persona that he had been and is becoming this new persona. It was fun, but there were definitely times when I looked like a Muppet that had been locked in the garage for a year where there's hair sticking out every which way. It was not a good look for a while.
Did it feel totally weird or did it help you feel like the new persona, Christof Mannheim?
Eggold: It definitely helped me feel different and certainly helped me craft a new persona for him. It was definitely weird to feel my head for the first time. For the first few days I couldn't stop rubbing my head because I hadn't felt it before.
How much time did Christof's tattoos take? And did you have to learn German for the role?
Eggold: Some of the tattoos are mine; none of the tattoos having to do with being a Nazi are mine. But the tattoos didn't take that long, less than an hour... I didn't know any German except for the one or two words that everybody knows. We have a language coach on set ... so I was just learning it as we go — learning what it meant in English and then learning the line in German and then trying to work on the dialect and trying to get it down if I could.
Is Tom going to keep that hair or let it grow back?
Eggold: For that, you'll have to wait and see.
The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 9/8c on NBC.
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