Inside Scoop: Chat With BLINDSPOT’s Marianne Jean-Baptiste

By: Agatha Kasprzak

NBC’s Blindspot has proven to be a bright spot in the network’s fall line up and has already been green lit for a full season. OHSOGRAY recently participated on a call with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who plays Assistant Director of the FBI Bethany Mayfair, about what the show is doing right and what viewers can look forward to.

Blindspot airs Mondays at 10/9c on NBC.

What was it about the show’s premise in general and about your character in particular that made you want to be part of this?

Well, I found it a very quick and exciting read. I love puzzles, conundrums, mysteries and so this sort of thing was right up my street. The element of tattoos and Jane being a sort of treasure map sort of made me very excited about trying to sort of solve those pieces. On further conversations with the creator who obviously went into a bit more about Bethany Mayfair, I felt that this would be a great opportunity to explore something slightly different. Although I played an FBI agent before, this woman is the Assistant Director and is not at first what she seems to be. There was a bit of intrigue, there was some secret that, you know, as the show goes on would be revealed so all those elements excited me quite a bit.

Why do you suppose that this show is working so well with the audience?

Well, I think they have very cleverly have been able to weave-in great action. You have the overall mystery of the whole thing so those people who love to solve a mystery or a puzzle, that’s for them with the action but also just sort of weave-in some great character stuff where characters are slowly being revealed and I just think it’s a really sort of magical combination that hooks a lot of people.

Blindspot - Season 1

It was pretty surprising that the show has already revealed that Jane is Taylor Shaw and I was just wondering if you guys were at all surprised that the show seems to be revealing secrets rather than keeping them for later on.

Well, you’ve got an entire body covered from head to toe with these tattoos so it’s like there’s no end to stuff that’s going to be revealed, do you know what I mean, and I think it’s great because it’s like there’s been quite a quick payoff to some of the mysteries that are being revealed. At first I was like oh come on, let’s string it out a little bit more but I think that we’ve got a great team of writers and that are extremely clever and I just think that they know what they’re doing, you know?

Does that mean that we will be learning more about what Operation Daylight is sooner rather than later?

Most definitely.

Did the producers give you a lot of character history and did they tell you what Daylight is and that kind of thing or are you still in the dark?

Yes, no, they told us quite a bit. I mean […] but I mean, they know where this story is going. I mean, they’ve worked-out the entire thing. On a personal level I love getting the strength and going oh my God and being surprised because I don’t always get to see the episodes when they air because it’s, you know, I watch etcetera, so it’s lovely to sort of like read them and discover them.

How close are you in real life to your character because you pull it off amazingly?

I take my job very seriously and I want to do well and so that type of thing, where they’re pushing the narrative so, you know, I try and use every opportunity to explore someone who is very unlike me. That’s always sort of been my goal so, she’s very well put together and business and official and in charge and bossy and it’s great just sort of step into her six-inch heels every day and do that.

Blindspot - Season 1

Since you are playing the Assistant Director of the FBI, could you talk a little bit about how you prepared for the role?

Yes, I did, I mean, I kind of did a bit of a refresher because I’ve done it for a show that I’ve done years ago but obviously she’s in a higher position so just sort of like reacquainting myself with protocols and all that stuff but then you look at the character as a whole and then you have to decide how much attention they pay to that? Do they slightly bend the rules? I mean, in this particular story that we’re telling, Weller is sort of a bit of a loose cannon at times and she sort of, although against her better judgment knows that he’s got a really good gut feeling and lets him do things that she may not necessarily believe is the way to do them. So yes, I mean, that’s been what I’ve really been exploring with it and trying to…you want to keep it as authentic as possible but still with that sort of creative license.

The show is very cohesive – between the actors, the characters, the setting, the writing. What do you think has made that possible?

I think Martin Gero is a very clever guy, and it’s the perfect combination for me anyway. He’s clever and he’s kind so he’s sort of…he selected a great group of writers, a great cast, we all get on really well. We go out and eat and all that so when we’re on set it’s sort of like there’s already a little shorthand developing in how we work and interact with each other. The scripts are very strong. I mean, I’m reading them, you know, as soon as they land whether I’m in the middle of an episode or not because I just want to know what’s going to happen next and I know that my other cast members feel the same way and it’s where they’re excited about getting hold of them. You can only imagine what it’s like for the audiences discovering these puzzles every week.

Where do you want your character to be by the end of the show?

Oh, probably an island in the Caribbean somewhere…You know, I don’t know. It’s very exciting just not knowing. You kind of have a rough overview of things that are going to take place but it’s a roller coaster ride. It’s sort of okay, she’s doing this, okay, which I totally embrace. And I trust that it’s going to be very exciting, you know?

You’re currently in two shows, Blindspot and Broadchurch and it’s a crime drama mystery and Blindspot is a drama mystery thriller and is there any difference in the way you approach a role for an American audience versus a British audience?

No, you can’t think like that. You’ve just to – it’s got to – be about the character. It really has to and it has to be about the integrity of the piece that you’re doing. I mean, obviously in your U.K. they take much longer with things. They don’t sort of it’s not like an eight-day or nine-day turnaround. It’s like you get for 2, 2-1/2 weeks on an episode but then they will only do eight so there isn’t that need, you know, to keep driving it through but yes, I mean, yes, it’s great. It’s great sort of being able to work in that way and just be focused on. You don’t look at the big picture, you hope people will like it and respond to it but you’ve got to compartmentalize and really focus on telling the story to be the best of your ability and then hopefully the people go I love your show.

Blindspot - Season 1

Are you ever astounded by how intricate and difficult the tattoos are as related to the story?

Constantly. I mean, I’m constantly blown away by how they’re deciphered and what and who is it that has created that puzzle in the first place. I mean, it’s very, very exciting for us, watching how it all unfolds, the cast is going oh my God and there are little tiny ones like the first one in the pilot that was behind her ear, the Chinese writing behind her ear. I mean, that’s like that was amazing and if you can imagine, she’s got little bits on her elbow, there might be a number here and it’s all going to lead to somewhere. It’s all been sort of really well thought-out and planned ahead and it’s great.

Why does Mayfair feels so protective of Jane despite the fact that she poses a clear threat to her?

Aha, does she? Yes, I mean, it’s interesting because I think that, you know, the whole show is based on things that seem extreme, very apparent, then sort of being turned on their head and you don’t ever quite know for sure what is going on, I think without sort of telling you anything, the story.

We recently found out at the very end that the DNA and the isotope did not match but were both conclusive. Are you able to tell us anything about how your character might react to that news?

I think that Mayfair is very level-headed and will assess all the evidence that is placed before her before making any kind of decision or assertion.

Are you finding out about these secrets and these twists as you go along or are any of them ones that you’ve been told from the beginning to be aware are coming?

For the most part, it’s a complete and utter surprise but obviously ones that affect the character and their overall arc, you sort of have to know up-front.

Blindspot - Season Pilot

Considering all of the twists and turns and all of the tattoos from head to toe, how long do you think that this premise can be drawn-out season and series-wise?

Oh my God, I mean, I don’t know. I mean, you could draw it out for a good like five, six, seven seasons I think but I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how, yes, I don’t know. I don’t know. I just know that there is a wealth of material to clip through and, I mean, are we going to stay with the tattoos? Is it going to evolve in a different area?

Do you think that there is going to potentially come a point where Jane’s mystery is figured out, the tattoos’ messages run out and the show is still going?

It could do because it could lead to something else, something else could show-up that they have to decipher that’s attached to, the tattoos and attached to her so, I mean, I’m stunned each week by the stuff that they’re having to find. And I’m only on Episode 10 so it’s like wow and it gets bigger and it leads back to this and this, you know, it’s actually genius. It’s really clever and really intricate.