Matthew Rhys played a conflicted Soviet spy living as an “illegal” in the U.S. for six seasons, but it was his final assignment that paid off most handsomely. The British actor won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Monday night for playing Philip Jennings on FX’s The Americans, which ended its run in May.
Rhys had been nominated in the category for the past two seasons but broke through as the Cold War drama wrapped with a thrilling Season 6. He starred alongside Keri Russell, who also was nominated but lost to The Crown‘s Claire Foy, as “spouses” who had lived undetected in Washington, D.C., raising a family like any other U.S. citizens. Things got complicated when FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) moves in across the street, but Jennings befriended him and they got close as the series progressed.
Rhys’ acceptance speech came soon after Oscars director George Weiss stunned the room by proposing to his girlfriend during the live show. Rhys, who has been dating his Americans co-star Keri Russell for the past few years, made sure there wouldn’t be a repeat performance. “She said, ‘If you propose to me, I will punch you clean in the mouth,’” the actor said. Fully aware of how her character was known dispatching her enemies with extreme prejudice on the series, he followed the advice.
Backstage, the actor said with a smile, “I’ve been saying [all along], I deserve this award.”
His win was one of two for the series, with EPs Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields taking home a trophy for writing.