The Americans creator/executive Joe Weisberg and executive producer Joel Fields told a PaleyFest: Made in NY crowd tonight that their show’s second season will expand from exploring the marriage of two spies to focus more on their family. FX’s Cold War-era drama, created by former CIA agent Weisberg, stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Soviet intelligence agents posing as an average American couple with two kids. The panel included the two EPs, Russell, Rhys and Noah Emmerich, who portrays the couple’s neighbor, nosy FBI agent Stan Beeman.
Although the kids are kept in the dark about their parents’ occupation, the first-season finale included the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) snooping into forbidden territory. Following the panel, which was moderated by New York magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, one audience member probed for details about whether Season 2 would spotlight the spy kids. Answered Fields: “I think we can say as much as, last season was the exploration of a marriage [and the news season] would draw a big concentric circle” around that marital unit to include Paige and her 10-year-old brother Henry (Keidrich Sellati). “That moment with Paige is a hint to some of the direction we will go.”
As expected on a panel about a spy show, there were plenty of jokes about secret information. Producers and cast revealed little in the way of Season 2 details, but the producers did respond to a question about the show’s choice to include so many Russian actors, speaking Russian with subtitles. There will be more, not less, of that in Season 2, they confirmed. Weisberg said that at first producers met with resistance to the idea, but once they made the choice, “the floodgates opened” and the subtitled scenes rank among the audience’s favorites. “At first it was, ‘Keep ’em short,’ but by the end of the season were saying, ‘We should make those scenes longer,’ ” he said, adding jokingly, “Hey, maybe next season we should do a whole episode in Russian.”
The lead actors spoke about shooting the series in Brooklyn. Although she described a scene performed in 5-degree weather (with no coat or shoes), Russell said: “I love shooting here, I live here [in New York]. … They’re shooting so much more here in the last 10 years.” Rhys joked about shooting a scenewhen a group of young local guys gathered around to watch. Rhys’ line was: “Immigration! I just want to talk!” The scene was repeated so many times that by the end, “every time I opened my mouth, about eight of them would yell: ‘Immigration! He just wants to talk!’ ” the actor said. He added that the director told him, “I hope you know you’ll be looping this thing.”
Emmerich responded to an audience question (from a retired policeman) about where his FBI agent character was headed in terms of his suspicions about the spy couple. He called it a “razor’s edge” balance between what the character appears to know and not know. “If Stan knows too much, the show ends; if he knows too little, he’s stupid,” Emmerich joked. He added more seriously, “Hopefully you don’t know with any certainty what Stan knows and doesn’t know.”
Also in response to an audience question, Weisberg said that he has “two or three or four ideas” about how the series might eventually end but “not so much about the middle”. He said that in preparation for Season 1, he had cobbled together “70 pages of typed notes … of which about a page survived”. He called the story “closer to evolving — when it’s really working, the story tells you where it wants to go”.
Weisberg did reveal a bit about his former relationship with the CIA: “It was my first day at the CIA when I realized I’d made a mistake,” he said, drawing laughs. He added that after listening to six weeks of talks about the organizational structure of the CIA, “I was like: ‘I fucked up.’ ” Weisberg mentioned that as part of his entrance examination he was quizzed about whether he wanted to join the CIA so he could write about it in the future. “Which had never occurred to me, I wanted to be a spy,” the producer said, to more laughs. “But the second they asked that question, I thought: ‘That’s a good idea. And I’m going to fail this test.’ ”