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'Blacklist' director dissects Dembe's shocking exit, Red's moment with Liz

Is Dembe leaving? Will Red's relationship with Liz ever be the same? 

The "Blacklist" airs new episodes Fridays at 8

The "Blacklist" airs new episodes Fridays at 8 p.m. on NBC. Photo Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBC

“Blacklist” fans head into Friday night’s episode equally satisfied and confused following last week’s double feature.

The two back-to-back episodes, titled “The Brockton College Killer” and “Rassvet,” saw the confirmation of Raymond Reddington’s impostor status. The identity of James Spader's character would have been a major-enough bombshell in itself if not for Liz admitting she turned Red into the police and Dembe (apparently) leaving the force.

The director of “The Brockton College Killer” was Lisa Robinson, put behind the NBC camera thanks to the network’s Female Forward program. Robinson, one of 10 directors in the inaugural program, is set to return as a series director next season.

Below, she discusses the program backing industry diversity and what it was like getting her hands on the turning-point episode.

This episode was a turning point for two of the series’ central relationships (Liz and Red; Red and Dembe). How did you approach bringing these important moments to life on-screen?

When I read the episode I was so excited that I was directing it. As you know there was so much to work with and so much happening. Thematically it was so rich in terms of both the Blacklister story and what was going on with the Task Force and the relationships reaching really interesting points in the season.

… In a way, we've been waiting for these scenes for the entire season, well, for Liz to tell Red she turned him in. There's been a lot of anticipation about what would happen there and a lot of dread. And then with Dembe as well it's a sense of how is this going to tip the balance of this relationship? They're very intense scenes and it was important for me to think about this web that's been created over the seasons. And these actors are incredible and have been on these emotional journeys with their characters so they're coming into it living the back story already. These actors bring so much to it. My job is also just to make a space and make sure that they can do what they need to do within it.

There were a lot of tears in this episode!

You know, it occurred to me that there's a sadness and a loss here, but the actors really brought that. I can encourage things [as a director] but in the truth of the moment, of course, there's sadness. They have very close relationships and are bonded, so it comes very true and natural.

The relationships are especially close when it comes to Red and Dembe. Their bond has always been a bit of a mystery to fans, and here we had a rare moment of the reflecting before Dembe leaves.

I love that scene. For Dembe, finding Red sitting in the living room is so terrifying because in the past when Red has done that, it's signaling an ominous turn. There are so many twists and turns leading to this moment. We don't really know which way it's going to go at this point, because Dembe is also leaving. And, we didn't know that was going to happen. It was important for me to settle into that feeling of uncertainty.

You're among a group of directors partnered with NBC shows through the Female Forward program, which lets you shadow three episodes before directing your own. Why do you think it's important NBC has a program like this and why was it the right fit for you?  

So this is a program like no other that I've seen before, not only that it offers shadowing, but it also guaranteed an episode to direct, which is very unusual. It also offered a stipend during your shadowing time so that you could afford to take that time off from doing whatever you'd normally do. And, that, I think is very special. There are qualified women out there who can do this and do it well and just need this opportunity to get their foot in the door. When you get there and meet all the executives involved in the program … who are like no other and directly involved, there's a real belief that you belong and that you can make this happen. We can increase the pool of qualified women directors, which is so important in television, so important. 

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