EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Eggold Talks Directorial Debut and Bittersweet Ride on ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’

Ryan Eggold
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The ‘Blacklist’ star channels his inner-Mike Nichols behind the camera on his feature directorial debut, ‘Literally, Right Before Aaron.’

While Ryan Eggold has made a name for himself as the charming star of The Blacklist and the short-lived spinoff, Redemption, the actor has recently been expanding his career behind the camera. The same week he returns to NBC’s spy thriller, he makes his feature directorial debut with Literally, Right Before Aaron.

Starring Justin Long and Cobie Smulders, Eggold’s new film tells the story of a heartbroken Adam (Long), who is invited to his ex-girlfriend Allison's (Smulders) wedding. Adam, as it turns out, is the man Allison dated “literally right before” her fiancé Aaron (Ryan Hansen). As a writer and director, it is his attempt at one of the classic romantic comedies by the likes of Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Nora Ephron, who all are referenced in the movie. Nichols’ films, Eggold notes, are all about people dealing with people, which is at the core of his story as Adam and Allison navigate a tumultuous friendship. 

If there’s one thing Eggold has gained from his experience behind the camera is that it’s made him a better collaborator. “I can say that for sure, and it’s made me understand the role of director more and appreciate it,” he says, adding that he’ll put more credence into a director’s note to him as an actor. 

Ultimately, he, as an actor, has full appreciation of the beast that goes into making a film or TV series, particularly The Blacklist, to which he returns when the series premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 27. Directing Literally, Right Before Aaron, which is in theaters and on demand Friday, Sept. 29, he’s previously said, reinforces the notion “that you’re not the most important thing on set.”

However, when it comes to the end of Redemption, which was built around his character, Tom Keen, it’s bittersweet. Having more input on his character and the show’s development, Eggold was invested in a way he wasn’t on the original series. “I felt like I had a little more of a role in this one,” he says, while admitting that some “episodes were really strong,” while “some of the episodes fell short for me for whatever reason.” If they had a second shot, he felt like they could have driven it more toward what was working. But at the end of the day, he says, “it was a great group of folks, so I was happy to work with them.” 

And that same critical eye extends to his new film. The day after its premiere at Tribeca, Eggold was still making note of what worked with the audience and what didn’t, admitting that whole process was a very vulnerable experience. “It was deeply personal to me and I didn’t realize how much it was until I showed it to an audience for the first time,” he says, adding that during the first screening, “my butthole was clenched tighter than, you know, any drum I’ve ever seen.”

But at the end of the day, Eggold says “it’s very rewarding to tell a story, to say something. To try and say something about your own experience that ideally will be someone else's experience because you’re a human being.”