Amir Arison on Aram & Samar and That Shocking ‘Blacklist’ Episode
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 6, Episode 15, of The Blacklist, “Olivia Olson”]
The good news for Aram (Amir Arison), the FBI task force’s strategist, on tonight’s episode of The Blacklist, “Olivia Olson,” was that he survived the audacity of stealing $60 million from master criminal and FBI asset Raymond Reddington (James Spader). The bad news? He lost Samar (Mozhan Marnò), his colleague and his great love, most likely forever.
TV Insider talked with Arison about the episode and his character’s future.
This was a bittersweet end to the Aram/Samar love story. It certainly showed how far the normally mild-mannered agent was willing to go to be reunited with Samar, who had exiled herself after she was put on the hit list of her former employer the Mossad due to her worsening brain damage. He had stolen from Red Reddington, a man we just saw suffocate Levi (Oded Fehr) Samar’s former Mossad colleague. Did Aram consider the danger?
Amir Arison: It’s almost like his life didn’t matter anymore. He just wasn’t scared of anything anymore. Not only did the love of his life have an incurable brain condition, but she was taken away, they didn’t get a proper goodbye, and he doesn’t know who will take care of her. Plus, she’s still in danger, partially because Aram [innocently] revealed her condition to Levi. The combination of guilt and self-punishment drove him to this, and course, anger at Redding for not consulting him about Samar’s plans.
Was this partially revenge to make Reddington suffer, as Aram does?
A lot of people were, “Oh, my God, Aram’s after revenge.” But the writers really didn’t change his character; Aram isn’t about revenge. He just needed leverage to get what he wants, which he learned from the master himself, Reddington. Aram wanted him to know that he was ready to die, but then Reddington wouldn’t get his money. It was only about leverage so Reddington would take him to Samar and he would save her.
For a Fed, Aram is always so ethical and expecting the good in most people; i.e., with Samar’s old friend Eli. Will this experience change the character?
That’s a great question and something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. The very end of the episode, Aram says goodbye to Samar in two says. First, he tells the Mossad feed that’s been tracking him — “You’re not going to get her through me.”
And he says goodbye to her with his only move left. He will honor her wishes and both of their safety by not going after her. She not only doesn’t want to be a burden on him or have him feel sorry for her, but she does want his life at risk along with her. It’s the only thing he can do with love.
He will also honor her with his life and purpose. As it was shown on the plane when Red manipulated him into working on a new case, the task force and saving lives is catnip for Aram. And this has helped him realize that is the purpose greater than himself.
James Spader as Reddington was deliciously menacing and more quietly kind in your scenes together in the office and the plane that Aram thought was taking him to Samar. Does Spader stay in character on set? Does he have that usually quietly intimidating presence?
The writers always say the characters’ voice and the actors’ voice start to blend. James is clearly a genius. Both Aram, and myself, know that when Reddington walks into the room and when James was into the room, he is by far the smartest and most powerful man there. It was fun to play an Aram who wasn’t afraid of him, because he wasn’t afraid of anything at that point. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for that dynamic. Of course, in the end, Reddington won, because he decided to have fun with Aram and charged him thousands of dollars in lost interest for his $60 million.
When did you find out that Mozhan Marnò was leaving the show? Your character was so intertwined with hers, so what was your reaction?
I didn’t know it was in the works, but when I read that script about when Aram learns about Samar’s aphasia and how her condition would deteriorate, I thought , “Uh, I don’t think we’re going to have a wedding. If this doesn’t get better, how will she continue on the task force?”
So I had a sense, but didn’t know how it would play out or for how long. Both Mozhan and the writers were masterful in handling it. I found out a couple of episodes before it all happened. Mozhan was very classy about it all.
Is it, and will it be, a bit strange not to have her to work with?
Yeah, she was my No. 1 scene partner. All our scenes were so rich. So much angst and love and sweetness, romance, fear and protectiveness. Over the years, there was so much evolution: Aram was a lost puppy without love, then flirting but not knowing how to ask her out, then getting together and then not. Not to forget the sort of love triangle when I dated the Russian spy. I’m super-sad to see my scene partner go, but curious to see what happens. The task force is down a person, so each has more weight to carry. That’s a lot more to explore.
On another note, next season, Law & Order: SVU will break records with 21 seasons. You had a small part in that success, with an eight-episode role over three seasons, from 2009-2011, correct? [Editors note: Arison also had a standalone role in 2005.]
Yes, I played Dr. Manning, the emergency room doctor. Here’s a fun fact: Stephanie Marquardt just directed the episode we’ve been talking about. It was her first time on the show. She had directed on SVU, where I got to know her, and she’s an old pal.
The Blacklist, Fridays, 9/8c, NBC