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The Blacklist's Tom Keen Was Initially Meant To Be A Much More Malevolent Character

Unassuming school teacher, cold-blooded killer, devoted family man — Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) has played many parts on NBC's "The Blacklist." Tom has flipped the script on just about everyone he has come into contact with. Even though he was first contracted to infiltrate Liz's (Megan Boone) life as her husband, things do not turn out as planned. Through no fault of his own, Tom falls for Liz and soon realizes that the only loyalty he has is to his wife. Not always on the side of righteousness, Tom's complexities make him one of the most fascinating characters of the series, and it was a shame to see him go. 

But being Liz's ride-or-die had not always been in the cards for the character. Executive Producer John Eisendrath has been quite open about plans to kill off Tom early in the series (via The Observer). Yet, after Eggold was brought on board that reality became quite impossible. The actor's nuanced interpretation of the character meant that the series would have to take Tom in a different direction. But before the spy became completely devoted to Liz and the child they had together, creatives had a different idea of where to take him. 

You thought Tom was dark already

Characters full of innocence are a rare commodity in "The Blacklist." To catch all of the criminals on Red's (James Spader) list, ethical compromises must be made — something that Liz learns in part due to her marriage. At the end of the pilot, Liz finds a secret compartment in her house full of money and fake passports with Tom's picture. This was the beginning of the reveal of who Tom is. And although he eventually proves his loyalty to Liz, love was not always in the cards for the duplicitous character.

"[T]he original incarnation of the character was actually much darker than what we did. It was much more violent and evil, like horrendous," Ryan Eggold shared with PopSugar. "But that character has been scrapped, and there's something else happening." The final version of Tom that makes it into "The Blacklist" is not one to be trifled with. He murders without remorse and lies indiscriminately, but that is not all there is to him. He may have a particular set of skills and a chilly disposition to get done what needs doing, but he does it all for love. After Liz finds out that he was employed to be in her life, their relationship is rocky at best. But through reconciliation and having Agnes (Katherine Kell), the most sympathetic character in the series, they make amends. At the end of it all, Tom finds redemption — which is a far cry from being pure evil.

Tom is redeemed

Ryan Eggold's command of Tom's character became so undeniable, one show could no longer contain him. Instead of being killed off like the original plan, creatives realized there was something even bigger for the actor down the line.

"Played by the wrong person, Tom could have been entirely unsympathetic and somebody we would have needed to kill off after 17 episodes," creator Jon Bokenkamp told Entertainment Tonight. When Liz finds out Tom has been deceiving her, she wastes no time in shooting him. But that isn't the end of Tom, and soon the redemption that he finds on "The Blacklist" became a prime opportunity for a spin-off series. Teaming up with his biological mother Scottie Hargrave (Famke Janssen), Tom embarks on a path to make up for his past misdeeds in "The Blacklist: Redemption."

"This is a guy who's a spy and assassin and orphan, but also someone who's discovering his ability to love for the first time and developing his first genuine relationship," Ryan Eggold elaborated. Just as Liz grapples with her own identity, her husband has a similar path. He learns that his life as an operative started when he was kidnapped from Scottie when he was three years old. And although "The Blacklist: Redemption" was short-lived, it didn't stop Tom from carrying out his final wish before leaving "The Blacklist." He redeems himself by fighting with Liz until the brutal end, even though it takes his life.