TV and movie studios around the world had to get creative when the coronavirus pandemic began shutting everything down back in March. NBC's The Blacklist got especially creative, as the producers needed to find a way to complete the seventh season. They had an episode half-finished and made the decision to use a comic book-style animation to complete its second half and give the season a proper finale.
"The Kazanjian Brothers" airs on Friday night on NBC, and fans aren't exactly sure what to expect from the partially-animated adventure. We weren't either, so we caught up with executive producers John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp and asked about the upcoming finale and how it all came together for Red and the gang.
[ComicBook.com] How did you [as the executive producers] come to the decision to animate the finale?
[Eisendrath & Bokenkamp] We’ve always talked about The Blacklist being a big of a comic book. We’ve got a criminal anti-hero at the center of the show. A Rogues’ Gallery of criminals each week. The look and feel of the show has a slightly alt, graphic novel feel to it that’s baked into the DNA of what we do on a week to week basis. So we think when we started kicking around ideas for two to complete the season — when we looked back at the comic books that had been written by Nicole Phillips — an animated approach felt very organic.
What was the process like once the decision to go animated was made?
The cast recorded all of their dialogue remotely while in quarantine. Those recordings were sent to our Post Production team in Los Angeles. We had animators working around the clock in London and Atlanta.The whole thing was a very virtual experience across multiple time zones, but we were truly impressed with how quickly and seamlessly everyone came together to complete the episode. Think we also welcomed the distraction from what was really happening out in the world.
What adjustments had to be made to the story in order to make it all work?
We made a few minor adjustments to the script, some of which expanded the scope of scenes that were otherwise impossible to produce on a regular live action TV schedule. One scene depicts a car racing through city streets, which would ordinarily have been accomplished using a green screen. But through animation, we had new possibilities for the camera to jump outside the car to see the vehicle racing through the streets with cars whizzing by and horns blaring. We could never shoot a scene like that in the middle of New York City. Another example is the scene where Red gives Liz the case of the week. That was meant to be shot on a sound stage in Red’s secret apartment, but when we decided to animate the rest of the episode, we thought: why not move this sequence the National Mall in DC with some big, sweeping, wide shots? Most of the changes we made were ultimately in service of a more dynamic visual language that was more suited to animation.
Is there any interest in doing more of this animation in future seasons or was this simply a move made out of necessity that you don't intend on doing again?
We think this was likely a one-time opportunity. We’ve got a fantastic cast and crew, and we’re all excited to get back to work, whenever that is.
The Season 7 finale of The Blacklist airs on Friday, May 15th at 8pm ET on NBC.