Dan Amboyer – The Blacklist: Redemption
By: MaryBeth McMahon
Q) What are the recent projects that you have been working on?
A) Right now, I’m currently shooting the spin-off for “The Blacklist,” which is called “The Blacklist: Redemption” and we’re shooting in New York. I’m not in the very first episode, but I’ll be there after that. I’m working on that. I don’t know if you watch “The Blacklist” but this is kind of like a spy show and nobody seems—You know when you first meet them, you don’t know exactly who they’re going to be or what’s going to happen. But it’s sort of, as you unpeel the onion, things change and the unexpected happens. So, I’m working on that which has been a lot of fun with some great people. I worked for a couple of years on a show called “Younger” and I just teamed up with some of the writers to do a web series. We shot that out in LA and I just finished that this past week. It’s a comedy about a couple guys—three guys— whose careers aren’t really going anywhere, so they become mannies for a wealthy clientele in LA. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched “Entourage” or “Young and Hungry,” but a guy named Rex Lee is on that. It’s with him. Then, the last thing is I did a film with Vince Vaughn. It’s kind of a non-comedy. It’s a gritty prison film where I get to torture Mr. Vaughn a little bit, as his warden – he’s a prisoner. That’s what I’ve been up to recently.
Q) What is exactly is the premise for the new show “The Blacklist: Redemption?”
A) Well, it’s taking the character of Tom (Ryan Eggold) from “The Blacklist” and it’s kind of giving him a little bit more of an in-depth storyline to follow. Famke Janssen is his mother, but she doesn’t—I’m just like “What am I allowed to say?” I think people know that she’s his mother, but she doesn’t know that. It kind of surrounds them and their story a little bit. They’re the two leads and it follows them.
Q) What was it that drew you to “Redemption” and the character you portray?
A) I think that it’s fun to play something that—The first time you meet me, you’re not quite sure. You might not give me a second thought. It’s a little bit unexpected and it’s a little bit sexier than some of the stuff I’ve been doing lately so I thought it was cool. A lot of my stuff is with Famke so it’s great to have such a cool scene partner. I’ve been into her work for a long time. It’s funny, I actually did a CBS pilot with—have you seen the Taken movies? I did a CBS pilot with Maggie Grace who plays her daughter in Taken and I was kind of like a romantic interest for Maggie. So, now it’s funny because I have a lot of stuff with her mother from Taken – with Famke. I feel like I’m moving through the Taken family here. I just need a little liaison with Liam now.
Q) What can you tell us about your character, Trevor?
A) It’s kind of hard because the thing about the show is that these people are not what you think they might be the first time you meet them. I’m an escort so I guess that’s what I can say. I’m a hired escort. Yes.
Q) How was he originally described to you and how has he changed since you first auditioned?
A) It’s funny because I originally, when it was sent to me—even though when they cast they release a breakdown and agents will submit clients that they think can be right for the parts. Because originally as written, I think it was going to be a one-episode thing, but my agents didn’t screen me for it. They actually reached out and asked to see me for it. So, it was a little bit like they said there was going to be developments of the character, but they couldn’t say what it was going to be more than who I had just seen. It was a little bit on faith and just, I appreciate the genre and what they’ve done with “Blacklist” and I thought it would be fun to do something that is so different and kind of a bit of a thriller. I just kind of signed my name and said take me where you want to go.
Q) What have you added to the role that wasn’t originally scripted?
A) When I first got it, just knowing that people have the tendency when they know that it’s an escort or something like that, to play this kind of smarmy kind of thing. But the way I kind of approached it was trying to take that kind of factor out of it. Like maybe he’s a guy who’s in grad school and whatever his circumstances are that he thought this was the best ground for him to make some extra money. So, it’s not that he’s always aspired to be a sex worker, but maybe he’s a really intelligent, driven guy and this is his secret way to get through grad school. I kind of tried to approach it with a little bit more heart and that he had aspirations beyond earning money for sex.
Q) Do you connect with your character at all?
A) Yeah, actually I think that there’s a good heart inside of him. Yeah, I do. I wish I could tell you more!
Q) What sets this spin-off series apart from its predecessor “The Blacklist?”
A) What I really think is great about it is that Famke is such a great lead for a TV show. I mean, she’s led huge, huge movies and it’s great that they scored her for the show. And just shooting scenes with her—she’s such a great actress and I love just working with her on set, and I admire that. I think the caliber of having her agree to do the show and be on the show and have a strong female lead who’s over the late-twenties, -thirties. She’s a strong, powerful woman who kicks butt. I think that’s something that’s really is great for the show. And James Spader is awesome on “The Blacklist,” but it’s great to have a female in that power position.
Q) Can “The Blacklist” and “The Blacklist: Redemption” fans expect any crossover episodes between both series?
A) I think that’s how they’re introducing it. I’m curious to how that works, how that might go. Because right now it’s just a limited, eight-episode limited series to take the place of “The Blacklist” during its hiatus. I’m not sure if there’s a possibility for it to come back further down the road, but there’s definitely been characters who have crossed over.
Q) Can you trade how dynamics shift as the season progresses?
A) I can’t. In ways you wouldn’t expect.
Q) Is there anyone you wish you had more scenes with?
A) Ryan is such a nice guy and I just met him while we were both going through hair and makeup together and he was such a cool guy. It’s kind of his show with Famke and he was such a welcoming presence to me, even though we hadn’t had material together, that I really appreciate that. I think it would be really fun to have camera time with him. We still have more episodes to shoot so who knows!
Q) What are some memorable moments that you are looking forward to fans seeing during the first season?
A) As much as it is a thriller and action based show, there’s also a lot of, what draws me in, is the relationships are really strong. And the dynamic and emotional impact of the characters and their search and journeys. Besides all the action and that kind of blood-pulsing thriller aspect, I think that you should keep your eye out for that part of the show, too.
Q) What was the most fun or challenging part about playing Trevor?
A) Well, the thing is, when you work on these shows, that a lot of the times you don’t get the draft of the script that you’re going to start shooting until a Friday night and you start shooting at 7am on Monday. So, you really have no idea what’s coming. It’s a surprise. Some of my stuff I said is a little bit sexier and when you get a theme and you’re like, “Oh my God, I have to be naked in two days. On TV. For millions of people.” And without any warning, that’s something that I didn’t necessarily know would be coming. Especially, I mean, I grew up as a chubby kid doing theater in Michigan. I never aspired to be taking my clothes off on camera. That’s one aspect that can be a little bit stressful at times. It’s like, “You want me to do what? On Monday? At 7am? What?” I’m not a model and you just kind of have to live in a body-positive world and realize that everyone has their imperfections, so embrace.
Q) It definitely sends out a great message and it’s really reaffirming to a lot of viewers who might feel similar to those types of situations.
A) It’s funny because even people I’ve worked with and you’re like, “Oh my God, they’re gorgeous. They have perfect bodies.” Everyone gets insecure about that stuff. I definitely don’t have a perfect body and it will be on display for all of you people to see.
Q) What have you taken away from working on this series?
A) I just love the process of working with different actors and directors. I always feel like after each episode I kind of walk away and I’m like, “Oh, I’ve learned something.” Like, how to be a better actor or a better performer. For me it’s learning from great people who’ve had years-and-years and more experience than I have doing it. One scene that we recently did was, there’s a long monologue for Famke’s character and knowing that she really only had it for like a day before we shot it. There’s a page and a half speech that she has to give and deliver, make specific and be emotionally connected and that kind of thing. I feel like I learn a lot from watching these very, very seasoned actors. I love that stuff and I love great actors, and getting to work with those people, for me, you can always learn.
Q) What have been some of your most memorable moments from filming the series?
A) It’s interesting. I think the nudity was a little bit memorable for me. I love the surprise of when you get a new script in your email box and you don’t know where the character is going. I guess my favorite moments are when you open a new script and you see the journey take a twist or turn somewhere that you haven’t expected, that kind of surpasses your expectations of what’s possible and where your character might be going. That’s always the most exciting thing for me.
Q) You are a part of social media. Are you looking forward to the instant feedback from the new show?
A) Yeah, I’m excited about it! I love how that works now because you can interact with people, and hopefully they have a good response. But if they have questions, thoughts or whatever, I think it’s just fun to be able to have a dialogue because at the end of the day, you do it for people to enjoy. It’s great to have that feedback and connection because I guess growing up, too, as someone in the theater world where you have that instant response, it’s interesting that you can have a dialogue with an audience. Even if you’re live tweeting while a show’s airing, you can get that feedback. Some of the times you can’t be a slave to pleasing fans or aspiring to make decisions based on that, but I think it’s cool and I would have loved, as a kid, being able to interact with show runners or writers or actors of the shows I loved.
Q) Especially since you said that you’re working with web series, I feel with those types of shows there have been a lot of opportunities for fans like that. How has it been working on a web series? Was it different from what you’re used to?
A) Yeah, it’s kind of charming because when you’re used to working on big budget shows where each episode costs a couple million dollars and there’s all this pressure behind it, it’s fun to go to something where it’s not that and it’s more boiled down to a bare bones production. And you have a limited budget and you have limited time and you’re working with people that you’re working with because you want to be there. And it’s not about the money and it’s about enjoying each other and coming up with a product that’s enriching and fun. You’re doing it for yourselves and you hope that if you like it and enjoy the final product, that other people will like it, too. But you don’t have to have that pressure of a network deciding if they like it or if they have notes and they want to make changes. You can kind of have complete control of the product.
Q) With that control and even though it’s a smaller budget, you’re fully invested in your product and it really shows.
A) You hope that people will respond to it. It’s amazing how things just have taken off, too. Like “High Maintenance” and shows that have started with humbler beginnings can transform into something else, but I don’t think that’s the reason to do it either. It’s a one in a million. It’s cool that people do watch and appreciate it as much as maybe a regular show too.
Q) Do you have a favorite media between film, theater and web that you’ve gotten the most out of in the past years?
A) It’s interesting because I feel like they all kind of heed each other. I did a new play in New York that I had to shed two months off my schedule and say I couldn’t do anything else for that time period because of the play. I think that me doing theater makes me a better actor on TV and film. Me doing TV and film enriches the honesty and emotional connection that’s needed in front of the cameras and for theater, I think because they kind of feed off of each other a little bit. I like challenging myself and I’ve done theater for a lot longer than I’ve done TV or film. So, I always want to be learning and improving as I go. I love the challenges of theater. Because of that, a lot of the training I’ve had for theater, I’ve been able to play such roles that are so different for me. I played Prince William in a movie about him and Katherine. So, me playing a prince, an English prince—you know I’m from Detroit, I would have never been able to do that had I not had the training. Or going from that to playing a Wall Street douche bag on “Younger.” It’s all very different kind of things, so I thankful to be able to bounce back and forth.
Q) Is that bouncing back and forth something you hope to continue doing?
A) Oh yeah! I really do. It’s really fun doing plays, but you can also do a play for six months or a year, and it can be a little tiring. And you know, there’s a certain charm with going to shoot a TV show where your scene take is three to five hours in the day and then it’s done forever. And then you have a new challenge the next day. It’s nice to be able to have both of those worlds.
Q) It sounds like you’ve had quite a variety of different characters that you’ve portrayed. Do you have a dream role that you’d like to portray, down the road?
A) I’m not sure. I really love TV. For me, TV kind of combines the best of all worlds because when you do theater, it’s like a group of people that becomes a family. And you work on a show for a couple of months, you’re with them everyday, and it’s very intense. But when the show closes, you don’t see them again. What I love about TV is that the story keeps evolving and changing and the characters keep growing and their journey continues, but the same family is around you the whole time. Like working on “Younger” for a couple of years, the same writing staff was there, Darren Star and the actors. There’s that consistency where you feel comfortable. There’s immediate ease when you go to work because you know these people as friends and as scene partners so there’s immediate trust so you don’t have to rebuild that all the time. I love that about TV. I would love to be able to do another great TV show. Do one that has heart and humor and a little bit of grit to it, too. We’ll see. I think that my dream has always been an HBO show or a Showtime show. I just love how there’s so much freedom you can have on a network like that. I like that too, where it’s not just about appealing to a very large base.
Q) Outside of acting, do you have any hobbies or things you like to do to help you unwind from your extremely busy schedule?
A) Yeah, I go to the gym a lot. I love running around the city – I love running. I have pets. I have a parrot that I inherited eight years ago. I have three big cats. I actually just bought my first place in Brooklyn so I’m about to move out there and hoping to get some backyard chickens. That’ll be my new hobby: backyard chickens.
Q) How has the transition been from Michigan to New York?
A) It’s been good. I think anyone moving to New York is a huge transition period, but it was good because I went to college for acting at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. I kind of transitioned to New York with my classmates and we all kind of came here together. They were my roommates and we helped each other with auditions. To this day, we see each other multiple times a week to help each other. I feel like there’s a community in New York that I’ve had from day one, of support. That’s made it good. Every day is an adventure here.
Q) What does it mean to you that this show is going to get its showcase immediately after the upcoming winter finale of “The Blacklist?”
A) I hope that the fans are looking forward to a new, fresh angle on a few of the characters that they know from “The Blacklist” and excited to see them begin a journey in a new show. I think it’ll be cool. It’s kind of a neat thing. It’s hard to imagine also getting that opportunity. What would it be like to take a couple of characters from, I don’t know, “Dexter” or “Weeds” or I don’t know from another show. It’s just cool to have that opportunity to zoom in on another character’s journey a little bit more.
Q) Exactly. And I know it’s been happening a lot with “The Walking Dead” and all of the “Chicago” shows. It’s really interesting to see them do that with “The Blacklist” because the characters are so interesting and rich.
A) Yeah, it’s exciting.
Q) Is there anything else you want fans to know either about yourself, your character or “The Blacklist: Redemption?”
A) Gosh, I wish I could say more about the character. Just that I hope that they enjoy the show as much as I’ve enjoyed being a part of it and following the journey. And to find us online and I am always just a tweet away. So, whatever thoughts they have, questions. And to thank them for watching it and giving us a go. And to keep watching because it’s going to keep changing and things grow and layers of the onion get peeled back.