“Since (creator) Joe Weisberg isn’t here tonight, I can say that this show is actually based on his personal story,” quipped executive producer Joel Fields about the historical basis for their FX show The Americans which follows two KGB spies posing as American parents in the 1980s (Weisberg is a former CIA officer). Fields, in addition to cast members Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru were in attendance at Awardsline’s Monday night screening of The Americans season two finale “Echo”, moderated by Deadline’s Dominic Patten.
The show, which earned two Emmy noms last year (for main title music and guest star Margo Martindale), is on a hot streak in the pre-Emmy nom phase. The Television Critics Association recognized The Americans for best drama and achievement in drama (Rhys) noms, while the Critics Choice Television Awards lauded it with a slew of above-the-line noms including drama, actor-drama (Rhys), actress-drama (Keri Russell) and supporting actress (Mahendru).
Amid the show’s edgy cliffhangers in the second season, particularly Russian spy Nina Sergeevna (Mahendru) being left out in the cold by her comrades as she faces punishment in the U.S.S.R and the possibility that the KGB will recruit the Jennings’ daughter Paige — Fields says The Americans has always been about “identity and trust” with plot really following from the set-up of character and theme.
This season started off with a bang as a fellow spy family, that the Jennings knew, were gruesomely murdered in a hotel room, with the only survivor being their son. “We knew from day one that their son did it, but we didn’t think of that as a mystery that we were looking to hide from the audience. What we were interested in were what the characters in the show would know and how it would reflect on their psyche when they found out,” said Fields.
One of the dramatic complexities that spy couple Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Rhys, Russell) grapple with is their dedication to the Soviet cause. Rhys recapped, “For means of conflict you have these people who’ve been in a fake marriage for 20 years, carrying out this mandate and arriving in a place where they aren’t sure of who they are anymore. The division within this unity of one being a die hard member and Philip wavering as to where his allegiances lie, it makes for great drama. Then you add the espionage element. (For an actor) it comes about where the tone lands in a real place.”
The Americans posted the highest percentage Live+3 second season debut increase for any FX show with 81% among adults 18-49 and received a 13-episode third season order. The show is also broadcasted in mother Russia, which Mehendru vouches “is good” based on the translation. Rhys joked, “They brought the show to Russia and put a laugh track on it.”