Noah Emmerich pops in “The Americans.” Best-known for his serious film work, no matter how small the role, Emmerich always stands out, from Todd Field’s “Little Children” and Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show” to Gavin O’Connor’s “Pride and Glory.” Perhaps because of that film he keeps getting calls to play Irish cops, even though he’s a New York Jew, he told me. (His brother Toby Emmerich runs New Line Cinema.)
When Emmerich, 48, first read the description of his character in the pilot script for the FX Reagan era series “The Americans,” he didn’t want to play yet another FBI agent, a man with a gun and a badge, he admits. When his friend O’Connor brought it back up to him, he read the pilot again and signed on after a long meeting with show creator Joe Weisberg, who has a CIA background. It was leap of faith to go from a 60-page script to a five-year series commitment, Emmerich told me during his first-ever Skype interview.
But he found that he enjoyed the way the writers responded to the colors and nuances the actors brought to their roles; his conflicted, obsessively patriotic counterintelligence agent Stan Beeman –always lying, his marriage in trouble with a sexy spy dalliance on the side–and undercover Russian spy Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are two sides of the same coin, he says.
But while the adjustment to shooting an hour show, nine scenes a day for seven days, was huge (Emmerich says a film is like working in oils while a TV show is like a quick charcoal sketch), the actor found it exciting to use his experience, skills and instinct in order to nail a scene in just two takes. When he left “The Americans” to start filming O’Connor’s western “Jane Got a Gun” on location in Santa Fe (he plays Natalie Portman’s husband), he had to slow things down again. “We’re shooting half a page? A page? How slow are we?”
Now he embraces stage, TV, and film, he says: “Each media has its different challenges.”