NPR article on the US-Russia spying that continues today:
- Decades After Cold War's End, U.S.-Russia Espionage Rivalry Evolves
Another established series looking to break through and occupy the Emmy-nom berth vacated by the departed Mad Men is FX's The Americans, which has been overlooked in the drama series category by TV Academy voters since its 2013 debut despite earning a Peabody and the Television Critics Association's Program of the Year award in 2015. Just recently THR critic Tim Goodman posted a story urging the TV Academy "to nominate The Americans on FX for best drama," adding that the series "is the best drama on television. Not one of the best the best."
According to showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, who outwardly have been diplomatic about Americans' Emmy snubs, much of the current fourth season has to do with propelling forward relationships that had been set in motion very early on in the series. That resulted in "emotional moves" that affected the lives of the show's lead characters, Soviet spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys), their children and their collaborators.
"We were certainly aware from the beginning that we were working with these storylines we had been telling since the beginning with Philip, Elizabeth, Martha [Alison Wright] and Nina [Annet Mahendru]," says Weisberg. "Bringing these arcs to a close and being able to tie them up in the right way was very important and emotional, and the season as a whole, if we did it right, would create a lot of feeling and a lot of emotion out of that. I think it felt good to us, a real goal for us that worked out well."
Weisberg and Fields say they began scoping out the rest of the series after season three. With a green light from FX, the duo believes they have more than enough material to mine from the 1980s-set espionage drama for two more seasons. "I think it's less a question of that we wanted to land at some place at the end of season four, but rather that we wanted to propel through to changes that will keep pushing the characters forward," says Fields. "It's always hard to do this job, but in this case the hard work is always rewarding, and we haven't run into any brick walls. It seems like these characters and this setting have been extremely fertile creative ground."
Nice!Finally got around to watching the rest of this latest season. Got totally overwhelmed trying to keep up with TV in April and May and just lost control and fell behind. Anyway, I loved this season. The same kind of quietly tense scenes I have come to expect from the show. The same kind of oddly uncomfortable scenes that are both memorable and hard to watch. And I just love everything they have done with Paige these past two seasons. It has really made the show even better in my eyes. This has always been both a show about spies and family, so letting Paige in on the secret and seeing how she reacts as she learns more has let us dive into new layers and aspects of both of the show's core subjects. It has been fascinating and Holly Taylor has been great.
Best Drama series nomination and Margo Martindale, as well.
More via the link.In past seasons, when weve been asked how does it feel to not get nominated, I think weve been able to pretty genuinely say were so grateful to work on this show with these great people that we love working with and that were so thrilled to have the support of the critics and the audience, says Fields. And now, to have all that, plus the nomination, its pretty great. Its pretty overwhelming.
The news today came as a huge surprise to both Russell and Americans EPs Joseph Weisberg and Joel Fields. Commenting on why this year was finally the year for the show, Russell beamed, In all my years of wearing winter coats, I have no idea why. Our show is a slow burn for a lot of people.
It feels like were the bad kids who got invited to the party, quipped the actress who counts her first Emmy nom after scoring a Golden Globe in 1999 for Felicity. For Rhys, Fields and Weisberg, its their first time too.
We spent so much time convincing ourselves this wouldnt happen, that its hard to turn on a dime and explain why it did happen, said Weisberg about the shows kudo nom collection.
We live in a time where it takes some shows some time to hit their zeitgeist, said Fields.
In total, Americans counts five noms this year including honors for writing (episode Persona non Grata by Weisberg and Fields) and for guest drama actress Margo Martindale (as tough-as-nails Soviet spy ring leader Claudia), who after winning last year for the series, now counts her fourth guest actress nom for the show.
Although theyre on vacation at the moment, Fields and Weisberg are already deep into writing the next season the series fifth and penultimate batch of episodes. Theyre hopeful the Emmy breakthrough will carry over to general audiences.
One thing that strikes me is this nomination may help get more people to sample and join us and be part of the live audience for the final seasons, Fields says. Its not important so much as it used to be in terms of the ratings although ratings are nice but theres something great about being part of a show where theres a growing community watching it together.
Weve thought an incredible amount about how to pace and plot the final two seasons, Weisberg says. I think youll find there will be some very specific things happening that will be special and different because its the final two seasons.
The world were in is specific Id say constrained, but not in a negative way because it takes place within a historical model thats different from Breaking Bad. That history guides us and gives us a lot of opportunities. It opens up a lot of what we want to do in terms of where the episodes go and where the story goes.
Fields adds: As crazy as it may sound, in our own heads theres just a truth to the world of this story. We cant impose upon it a pace that it doesnt have. That wouldnt ring true. By now, as we turn the corner into these final seasons we feel we can do nothing other than follow where the story is going. Obviously were the ones writing the story, and we know where its going, weve been talking about that for some time, but we cant impose upon that a different pace than it may want.
So glad this show finally received the recognition it deserves. Usually I don't worry about those kinds of accolades, but if a show ever deserved to (hopefully) bring in a bigger audience, it's The Americans.
Can't wait for Season 5.
Wow that's a great read. And that one dude is right: I'm pissed off.Really interesting article on a female spy who worked for decades against the USA and overlaps some of the same time periods as the show
I like that the non-Americans are spies and the Americans are "Undercover Intelligence Agents" as if it is not the same thing.Some of the most damaging information Montes admitted giving to Cuba, the FBI said, were the identities of four American undercover intelligence officers working there.
Have you pitched your ideas? You know, "I'd like us to turn, become Americans …"
RHYS Oh, I definitely do.
RUSSELL I actually said to them at the beginning of last [season], "Are we seeing cracks? Is there any way this could be Elizabeth saying, 'Maybe we should double agent or something?' " And Joe looked like I had said the most blasphemous thing. He was like, "No, there is not a chance." (Laughter.)
RHYS These spies were called "illegals," and so we had a real illegal come to set who did exactly what we did. We caught some flack in the press about having an FBI agent [Noah Emmerich] living next door, but that was his story. He had an FBI agent who lived next door to him who turned him, so I was saying all this to Joe and Joel. I was like, "This is perfect. Noah Emmerich will turn us — we'll become double agents."
RHYS This whole massive pitch. And they went, "Yeah … no."
Have the fan exchanges changed?
RUSSELL Oh yeah. After season one, when I got to beat up Margo Martindale, I'd be walking down the street in New York City, and like every construction worker would be like, "Yo! You really kicked that lady's ass!"
RHYS Actually, what he said was, "I loved it when you kicked that old lady's ass!" And you were like, "How dare you call Margo Martindale an old lady. How f—ing dare you."
More via the link. Fun interview.
- THR: 'The Americans' On- and Offscreen Couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in Rare Joint Interview
More via the link. Fun interview.
Lots of good stuff in there.@ the second tease
The ending has been set for awhile.
Weisberg said that the fifth season of the series stands alone as a season, but it sets up the finale in a pretty specific way. Fields added that around season two, we started creating what we call this master document that had all our scene ideas for every story line. Wed work from that as we wrote every season and every episode. At the end of last season, we went through that and that has everything in it. (Apparently this magical document was so long that it had to be shrunk down to seven-point font.)
Weisberg added, Weve been stuck on this one idea [for the finale] for like three years.
Last season cleared out lots of characters. Does this mean theres room for new ones?
We asked ourselves: Marthas gone. Ninas gone. So much of our story revolved around them. Do we want to replace them? Weve got two years left, said Weisberg. We did what we usually do and panicked for five minutes and then decided, lets just let the story answer that question. We found that the story we want to tell for them isnt really replacing them with characters who have that kind of significance in the Jennings life.
- During the first season, Weisberg and Fields were very worried about whether the show could pull off extended scenes in the Soviet embassy with characters speaking entirely in Russian. Its crazy when we think back to the first season how risky it seemed to do those scenes in Russian, Fields said.
- Weisberg was particularly nervous about whether the nine-month time jump that the show took in season four would work. Joes first words after seeing the directors cut was Oh my god, it worked, Fields said. Weisberg gave a lot of credit to a discreet hairstyling choice. It was such a subtle, simple thing we tied Paiges hair back into a ponytail and that gave her a sterner look. It was the littlest thing but it did so much to make it work, he said.
- Of all the wigs and disguises the producers have thrust upon Russell and Rhys, the only one that Russell has rejected is a wig that is way too close to her Felicity persona from the WB Network days. Everybody else in the Americans company has put it on for a picture. But not Russell, Fields said.
What were the most satisfying moments during the season?
Rhys: A highlight for me was the big argument that happened in Episode 8, that was a long time coming for Philip and Elizabeth. So much is quashed, and sat on, and not addressed, and finally, in a world where so much isnt said, they had an opportunity to really, albeit briefly, let some things go; to air some truths.
Russell: It was such an old marriage fight, too. I dont know what ended up making it in the edit, but there were a few lines in there where were talking about people from the first season arena, and I remember, in the midst of this vicious retort back and forth, theyre like, You have to say her name because you have to [remind] people who she was. Its like, it doesnt matter what her fucking name is. They get the point. Its like a wife yelling about
Russell: Over something that happened years ago. That was good because thats the show, and its so interesting to me when its just this great marriage show.
Much more via the link.Its a tough role for Holly Taylor to play. Her decision to confide to her pastor that her parents are Soviet spies brings unimaginable stress.
Russell: And when my character has unleashed on the Paige character, theres been so much going on, and I love that its really fueled by personal stuff. The most recent one was in this episode where I had to yell at her about who knows what it was that time, but I feel like it was all spawned from the jealousy and the resentment and everything going on with Philip and Elizabeth and what she was supposed to be doing. But I felt like it was a real parent moment as well.
You would never know what this young actress is capable of until you test her.
Russell: Right. Theres another thing I want to say about the Paige recruitment, and Tommy Schlamme, one of our directors who I love so much. There was a scene which, on paper, sort of read a certain way, and he had such a good note about it. It was my problem with the recruitment issue. He says, Yeah, but its about her knowing who you are. She doesnt know anything about [the fact] that were Russian, or our heritage, or truly who we are, and you want to be seen [incorrectly] by these people that love you. You want them to truly see who you are. So, in a way, its less about her becoming a spy, and more like, This is who I am. I want you to know who you are versus this lie of a person.
All this unraveling of the story, it is still so interesting to me, and thats a good thing.