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Edi Gathegi Talks Matias Solomon and ‘The Blacklist: Redemption’
March 2, 2017  | By David Hinckley
 

Matias Solomon has already experienced resurrection, Edi Gathegi (top) muses. So why not go for redemption as well?

Gathegi’s cold-blooded Matias was originally going to die back on NBC’s The Blacklist.

Then the TV gods spared him and he now shares the lead spot on The Blacklist: Redemption, a Blacklist spinoff that’s airing at 10 p.m. ET Thursdays on NBC.

Redemption gathers several of the show’s more squirrely characters, including Solomon and Ryan Eggold’s Tom Keen (left, with Gathegi), and turns them into a newly assembled mercenary squad that’s going after villains even more conniving and dangerous than they are.

Gathegi cautions, however, that “redemption” is a relative term, at least in the show’s early episodes.

“Matias still has the essence of the bad guy,” says Gathegi. “I know how awful he is and he can be. I haven’t played anybody worse than he is, and I’m not sure I ever will.”

That’s not a complaint.

“He is,” says Gathegi, “great to play.”

It’s also not impossible that we will see glimpses of some other side to Solomon as the new show rolls out.

“There probably is some good in him,” says Gathegi. “Somewhere. We may explore those aspects as we go through this season and hopefully future seasons.”

That kind of evolution, says Gathegi, has made The Blacklist series a nice place to work.  

“One of the things that our creators Jon Bokenkamp and John Eisendrath do so wonderfully is improvisation,” he says. “They know how to tap into the culture, they follow what’s happening in the world, they know how to make things up as they go along. That sometimes makes for tight shooting situations, but the result is a very fluid show.

“I was originally asked to do four episodes as Matias in The Blacklist, and Matias was supposed to die. Then it went up to six and the character had enough appeal that they liked him for this spinoff.”

Gathegi has some experience of his own with fluid plans. As he has related several times in the past, he went to the University of California at Santa Barbara mostly hoping to play basketball.

Then he blew out his knee and decided to take an acting course to help assuage his depression. He discovered he liked it, as in really liked it, and went to NYU’s graduate school in acting, where he graduated in 2005.

His acting career began on the stage, where he appeared in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running and a number of Shakespeare productions. He picked up his first small movie role in 2006, playing a Haitian cab driver, and within a few years he was in the Twilight series and an X-Men film.

Besides The Blacklist, he’s played in dozens of television shows, including Justified (left), Proof, StartUp and Into the Badlands.

“I love playing characters very different from myself,” he says of this eclectic mix. “It keeps me challenged as an actor. I always try to look for something I haven’t done before.

“When I look at what I’ve done so far, I’m satisfied. But there are always other things. I had just a small part in X-Men, so I’d love to do another superhero movie. I’d like to do a biopic, perhaps on someone like Kofi Annan or Jerry Rice.”

He says Redemption also qualifies as a different kind of role, despite Matias being a reprise.  

“The tone of this show is different from The Blacklist,” he says. “Our show is more action and spying. It has a lighter tone than The Blacklist.

“I’m also doing a project in Puerto Rico now that’s darker than this one. So right now this is the lighter side for me.”

One of the X factors for Matias, and thus one of many things that may keep viewers off-balance when they watch him, is that Redemption makes him a working colleague of Tom Keen – whose wife Elizabeth (Megan Boone) Matias previously tried to kill.

Awkward?

“They’re both professionals,” says Gathegi. “They know how to work with each other and they’re doing business together. That’s what this is for Matias, business. This is how he can make the most money now.”

So it’s not personal?

“Not in the working relationship,” says Gathegi. “But you don’t always know how much they might be internalizing.”

Gathegi, who turns 38 next week, has some personal experience with not revealing too much. He’s one of the lowest-profile successful actors around.

“I like keeping my life and my professional life separate,” he says. “I don’t put myself out there the way some actors do, where they court a kind of sensationalism about their private lives. That works for some of them. It’s not my choice.

“My private life might be more visible if I were in more high-profile projects. I don’t know. That seems to happen. So maybe if I am, you’ll find out stuff about me that people want to know, or don’t want to know. I like it that now the focus stays on my work.”

There is one factoid, however, that he will reveal: He no longer plays basketball.

“Someone asked me to play recently,” he says, “and I had to turn them down, because I hadn’t played in so long that I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

“When I took up acting, I felt I had to devote full-time to my craft, so I no longer had time to follow sports. I was a huge fan, so I’d be frustrated that I’d miss a championship game.

“Finally I decided I had to divorce myself from being a fan. Now I can’t even tell you who’s on the teams.”

That’s a win for acting, a loss for sports fandom. Time for someone to offer him the lead in the Stephen Curry story.

 
 
 
 
 
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