The Americans Spoilers: Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich Talk Season 1’s Epic Finish
It's been an intense thrill ride this season on FX's The Americans as the Jennings — Elizabeth (Keri Russell, Felicity) and Philip (Matthew Rhys, Brothers and Sisters) — balance their jobs spying for the KGB with their suburban family life in 1980s-era Washington, D.C., all the while living across the street from FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich, The Walking Dead).
Now, to prepare us for the crescendo of first season — with the 10th episode out of 13 airing tonight, April 17 — Matthew and Noah talked to a group of journalists and teased the adrenaline-fueled climax.
I was wondering if you could just talk about how [Philip's feeling of betrayal by his country and his wife] will inform the second half of the season? Matthew Rhys: So many things changed, in many ways irreparably, to a degree in that you wonder how he’ll be able to recover with Elizabeth and indeed the people he worked for. It sort of solidifies and consolidates everything he was beginning to believe, not about her, but certainly about the KGB, anyway. It makes for that great pressure, as something now must happen from that. Certainly, in the episodes we’re shooting now, I think Philip is in this great transition. It’s like stalemate because he knows he wants to make a move, and he wants to do something about it; it’s just he isn’t quite sure how to get out, really.
One of the best parts of the show I think is just seeing where your relationship is going with [Elizabeth]. What can you tease about that coming forward? I don’t think the resolution is quite possible given what they’ve been through and the amount of back-and-forth — you know, the chess game they play with each other where revelation after revelation has come out — and the amount of betrayal involved. I don’t think will be resolved overnight, and I think that’s sort of the glorious element to it, is that it can’t be a quick fix relationship. There has to be some sort of long road of recovery for it to have any longevity.
How does Philip kind of balance the friendship with Stan and spying going forward? I think he’s a little torn about Stan, to be perfectly honest. Philip does come from a decent moral place, in many ways, and he has a love for the lifestyle they’ve created. I think part of that is this sort of white-picket, idyllic idea of having a best friend in a neighbor. I think he genuinely does like Stan. Although he tells Elizabeth [that] it’s good to keep your enemies closer, I think, with Stan, there is a genuine fondness there. It’s unfortunate that, in a way, he is manipulating him for information.
Could you talk a little bit about how [the Jennings'] relationship with the kids might evolve in the second half of the season? Will we see [the children] becoming a little bit more aware of what’s going on with their parents or more lying on their behalf? I don’t know. I think that’s an incredibly interesting sort of element as to how much they will know or when indeed they do know. Joe Weisberg, the creator of the show, actually an operative — he said that there is this time in the CIA when operatives do get together and [...] have children. They have these foreign assignments where they’re posing as families. Then there comes a time in that whole timeframe where there is this sort of special day — this day that is this kind of thing within the CIA that people know about — when operatives tell their children ... It’s just when they think the child is mature enough to take the information.
Children sometimes feel incredibly relieved because they’ve sensed that there is something odd has been happening their entire lives and they haven’t been able to put their finger on it. Other children are dismayed that their parents have lied to them for so long. Then some children are just ecstatic at the fact that their parents have turned out to be spies.
It’s a very real situation whereby this would happen where they would sit the kids down and say this is what we do. I think, dramaturgically, it opens up an enormous array of directions in which they could take it. Who knows, is my long winded answer.
What is it like working with the sexiest woman on earth, Keri Russell? Well, when she turns up, or when she’s sober, it’s fine. When she puts that big wig on with all that hair she has everything turns out great. She is a joy. She is an absolute joy. On top of her smoldering looks, she happens to have a very fabulous personality, which is what makes the shooting of the series a lot of fun. She has an incredibly mischievous sense of humor, which drives me insane, but we do have fun making this show.
Did you speak Russian prior to the role, or did you learn it for this particular role? I was fluent before I took the part, funnily enough. No, I wasn’t at all. I’m being scoffed at by my publicist because she is actually fluent, born and raised in Russia, funnily enough. No, I wasn’t. You will, in fact, unfortunately hear me butcher the beautiful language of Russian.
Considering the fact that Stan killed Amador, are we going to see now that his character is crossing a lot of lines and changing? Noah Emmerich: He definitely crosses the line that he tries to draw for himself earlier in [that episode], and, as you mention, by the end of the episode there’s been some boundary breaking. I think the repercussions of that will come to play in his character as we go on, and I think we’re going to have to see what happens.
We haven’t seen much with Stan and his son interacting, but will we see that dynamic explored? Or maybe the lack of relationship explored? Yes, I hope so, I hope so. It’s certainly an interesting area to go to. Certainly I think Stan’s career has been very hard on his relationship, both with his wife and with his son, maybe more poignantly with his son, who’s at a developmentally fragile age. I think that the distance between them is something that provides lots of interesting material to explore, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to do that.
I’m very curious about your character’s background with his undercover work with the white supremacists and how that affected him. We’ve had a lot of flashbacks throughout the series so far. Can you let us know if we’ll get a flashback for your undercover work?I certainly hope that we will. I’m certain that we will, actually. The question is when. But clearly Stan’s background and the three years he spent with the white supremacists had a huge impact on his life and his character, and it’s something that we’re going to need to find more out about. Keep watching the show and give us time to get to that.
One of the fun parts about the show is the crazy wigs and the undercover stuff, and with your character you don’t really get to do that. I know. It’s very frustrating ... I want to wear a wig.
Maybe in the flashback episode you can do that. Certainly, yes, there’s lots of room for that to come into play.
Yes, and maybe like fake tattoos or some crazy outfits. Who said they’re fake?
The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.