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TCA: ‘Blacklist’ Panel Addresses Comparison to ‘Silence of the Lambs’

The new NBC drama's star and producer discuss what makes them different from the iconic film

A villain behind bars will only speak with a specific young, female agent. She's new to the job but they solve crimes together. Sound familiar?

The producers of NBC's new drama "Blacklist" know their setup is a bit similar to that of "Silence of the Lambs." But they promise thier show will go in a different direction.

"We are all fans of that movie," executive producer John Eisendrath said of comparisons to the film in a Television Critics Association panel of Saturday. "It's a great movie and we're lucky to in some ways be compared to it. But, I think there's a big difference between the characters on our show and the characters of Hannibal and Clarice."

The voice of "Silence" still echoes across television: NBC's "Hannibal" features the early years of the film's brilliant, deadly Dr. Lecter. And "The Following" features a villain who, like Lecter, is perfectly capable of inflicting misery from a cell.

On "The Blacklist," James Spader plays ex-government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington, who has become one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives. With ties to an international circuit of criminals, he surprises the FBI by surrendering and offering to help catch a very wanted terrorist. But he'll only speak with agent Elizabeth “Liz” Keen (Megan Boone).

"Red is not a psychopath," Eisendrath said. "He's much more of an enigma. Is he good? Is he bad? What is his journey like? should be part of the question of the series. Is it a journey of redemption? Is it a journey of revenge? It's very distinct from Hannibal Lecter. While [Liz] may start out from a naïve, more innocent place, this is more a journey of discovery. Who she is, what is she? This is a journey for the audience, not just the character, certainly the journey they go on will be distinctively different.

Spader noted that "Blacklist" does share a strong image from "Silence": a young woman speaking to a man imprisoned behind glass.

But he says that situation won't be permanent. "That imagery will end very soon," the actor said. "Red does hit the street as an asset for the team."