James Spader says shaving his head for The Blacklist "felt wonderful."
The star explains, "I'd had my hair long for the last few projects that I had done and it just felt like the right thing for him. So it was an idea I instigated and I think it was the right choice."
He means the right choice for his role as Raymond "Red" Reddington, a master criminal who opts to help a young FBI agent in the new NBC drama airing Mondays at 10 p.m. It has been a ratings winner in its first two outings. The premiere drew more than 12 million viewers and the second episode pulled in 11.6 million, rising to 16.4 million with three days of DVR-delayed viewing factored in.
And on Friday, NBC announced it had extended the order of an initial 13 episodes to a full 22.
Spader, 53, in a press call to reporters last week, was asked if he had any regrets about the buzz cut. "None." But, he added, "It's still early autumn here in New York. Ask me again in January."
The character seems to be delighting Spader, who says he has "never been a super TV watcher," despite his stints on Boston Legal, The Office and The Practice. But this character, "seemed like he'd sustain over the course of a season and over multiple seasons."
And on top of his shaved head is a fedora, something else that Spader says fits perfectly.
"We didn't want him to look as if he's from any specific style or fashion of any given year or place. He's someone who would compile his wardrobe from around the world. ... We also wanted it to be timeless and difficult to place."
The character is not a high-tech kind of guy. "He's sometimes wistful about the old days." Adds Spader, "Myself, I'm completely technologically ignorant."
The Blacklist, he says, offer episodes that stand alone, but he promises, "People who stay with the show will find there's much more satisfaction than just a straight procedural."
As for that other big role he just landed – playing Ultron the villain in the 2015 Avengers movie, he explains that he met with producer Kevin Feige "a couple years ago and told him I'd love to come into that world at some point if the circumstances were right."
"It was for a lot of reasons. There was a time in my life I used to go over to my friend Will's house when I was a kid and I never had any comic books and he had trunks of them and I'd bury myself in his comics and devour them."
He adds, "I have three sons and a couple of them along the way have shown a real keen interest in that world. So before it was too late, I thought I'd try and see if I could be part of it."
Spader likes the idea of entering into a world that is "foreign," he says. "I've been doing this a long time and it seemed like it would be great fun to do something I have no frame of reference and there you go, the right thing came along. Joss Whedon gave me a call and said that he really wasn't thinking about anybody else for it and thought it would be fun to do so here we go."