‘The Blacklist’ Boss on Coming Back With ‘a Bit of Misinformation’ and ‘a Much Lighter, More Fun Red’

Jon Bokenkamp also tells TheWrap where he sees James Spader drama going now that it’s been renewed for Season 8

“The Blacklist” returns tonight from a very long hiatus and when it comes back, series creator Jon Bokenkamp promises that you’ll find yourself watching a “much lighter, more fun” Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), seeing as he’s still under the impression that Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins) is dead. 

But Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) — not to mention viewers at home — know that isn’t true, so we asked Bokenkamp to tease how this will all play out when the NBC drama’s long-awaited spring premiere, titled “Victoria Fenberg,” finally airs.

Oh, before we get into our Q&A with Bokenkamp, here’s the official description for the hour, just so you’re more prepared for what’s to come:  “With the help of the Task Force, Red tracks a gifted art forger who has thwarted his plans to sell stolen pieces. Aram’s love life becomes increasingly complicated. Liz and Ressler confide in each other.”

TheWrap: How soon do we pick up after the winter finale and why did you decide to pick up there?

Jon Bokenkamp: Well we start with a bit of misinformation. Red believes that Katarina Rostova is dead. The result is a much lighter, more fun Red. He feels a weight has been lifted. So the cases he gives us and the stories he embarks upon are an absolute blast. It’s still dangerous, it’s still “The Blacklist,” but when Red’s having fun we’re all having fun.

Where is Katarina when we come back and when is the last time Liz spoke to her?

Bokenkamp: Let’s just say Katarina Rostova is MIA. Liz hasn’t spoken to her. Red believes she’s dead. She’s more of a specter than a presence. This doesn’t mean she won’t return. When and if she does, it will likely be complicated, but until then she feels like a chapter in our story that we’ve closed.

Is Liz planning on confronting Red about Katarina soon — and does he have an answer for her when she asks if Katarina is her mother?

Bokenkamp: Well, yes. In fact, Liz confronts Red in our return episode. I think he feels like he’s answered the question “Is she my mother?” He has nothing more to say about the matter. Liz, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like that itch has been scratched.

What can you tell us about Victoria Fenberg and the crime(s) at the center of this episode that Red and the Task Force will be dealing with?

Bokenkamp: We return with a really big and fun heist episode. It’s centered around an art heist. The story involves everything from Dembe’s birthday to horseback riding to a priceless forged antiquity. Put all those ingredients in the blender and it makes for a blast of a return.

You all have been renewed for Season 8 since the last time we spoke! Looking ahead, since you’ve now already gone so deep into the mythology this season by getting to Katarina and what she represents for both Red and Liz, is it possible Season 8 will be your last?

Bokenkamp: We started season seven with the knowledge that we had a lot more story left to tell — too much story to cram into Season 7. As you point out, we are deep into the mythology, and we’re closer to the end than the beginning, but at the moment we’re just having fun unpacking the story we’re telling.

“The Blacklist” returns tonight at 8/7c on NBC.