The 1980s are a period that many remember in a nostalgic manner. Even the ones who didn’t live through it think back fondly, reliving the moments vicariously through Molly Ringwald films, your mother’s legwarmers, or even pictures of your mullet-clad dad. Plus there are the moments that everyone remembers fondly: the first music video premiering on MTV, the Live Aid concert, the advent of internet and mobile communication technology.
But then there are the dark moments of history that leave a blemish; the ones that are hard to forget and tend to leave a lasting mark on our collective memories. The Iran-Contra affair, the neglectful early stages of the AIDS crisis and the Ethiopian famine — these are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of calamities world governments were dealing with at the time.
And these moments, whether good or bad, have influenced not only our contemporary lives, but also how we reflect on the records of those events. That historiographical outlook has been the driving force behind what Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have been trying to achieve in their critical hit, "The Americans."
With widespread acclaim, the series is set to return for a nail-biting fourth season this March. With such a wild cliffhanger from last season, this new offering is sure to bring new levels of intrigue, suspense, and espionage. Indiewire braved the red carpet of the fourth season’s premiere, meeting the star-studded cast and brilliant showrunners to discuss just what to expect from the new season.
You Never Know What to Expect
"The Americans" doesn’t hold back in making you understand the unpredictable nature of the ’80s. As a show set at the height of the Cold War, it’s only right to make sure everyone is just as on edge today as they would have been during the tumultuous decade. "Every season of the show isn’t afraid to shake things up," said Kelly AuCoin, who plays Pastor Tim. "The show just constantly keeps you guessing. It’s a spy thriller for Christ’s sake," replied the actor when asked what would be the biggest draw for new fans this season.
Even veteran actor Dylan Baker didn’t know he’d have to punch fellow star Matthew Rhys repeatedly during a torture scene this season. When asked how difficult it was to shoot, Baker said, "I had to slug [Philip] a couple times. He did it a lot [and] I don’t know why. It was quite a few takes. [laughs]"
The Show is My Research
With a show that is as accurate and precise in its historical depictions as "The Americans," it’s no wonder that so many viewers rely on the series to fill them in on what the 1980s must have felt like. When asked to respond how she prepares and researches her role, Holly Taylor — who plays the Jennings’ pivotal daughter, Paige — stated, "I feel like I learn so much more from watching the show and getting the scripts than just figuring out what happened on those days because the show is so true to the exact moment, down to the day and time."
That is certainly what most fans of the TV show must feel as they notice commercials, car models, and other nuances from the period. "[Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields] are very hard workers," proclaimed Baker, stating that they always take the time to meticulously research every nook and cranny of their show.
Being a Child of the Era Helped
Most of the actors on the TV show had grown up during the ’80s and are now playing what is essentially their parents’ age. Some of them, like Noah Emmerich, have a vivid memory of living through the Cold War. "Sadly, this history is one that I lived," said the acclaimed actor. When asked how his training as a historian at Yale helped him prepare for the role, Emmerich stated, "I was curious about revisiting that period with an adult understanding of geopolitics" and that "being a student of history does enhance the pleasure I take from doing a historical project." Living through what he had grown up with for most of his upbringing, Emmerich added, "It’s amazing to revisit a time in which I was a child."
The CIA Has (Mostly) Been Supportive
When you leave the CIA, surely there are some things you can take with you: your stapler, your name-tag, maybe even your plant — but trade secrets? When asked how his previous employers have responded to the show, Joe Weisberg said, "It runs at about 95 percent very positive. People really like it." But he also noted that there are a few dissenters, stating that about "5 percent are stuck on certain tradecraft things or just don’t like that somebody who worked there is doing something public. [laughs]" But even the naysayers can’t seem to stop Weisberg from enjoying his TV show’s well-deserved success.
Here Come More ’80s Tributes
What most fans love about period-piece TV shows is not just the rich dialogue or even the eye-catching costumes. No, their fanfare is most frequently associated with the accurate recreation of famous historical events. "Mad Men" famously covered the assassination of JFK, accurately capturing the horror and shock that most Americans felt upon learning their president was brutally murdered. "The Knick" on the other hand, showcased the burgeoning presence of X-ray technology in a period of early medical ineptness. "The Americans" is making sure that it joins in on that fan-favorite bandwagon.
Last season, fans were treated to a glimpse of the Afghani War, the anti-apartheid movement, and before that, the Nicaraguan Contras. When asked what real-life events would be intertwined with the narrative, Joel Fields answered, "We have some seminal cultural events. Some of them that are ‘ooo, scary’ and some that are kind of fun. The Jennings and the Beemans are going to watch ‘The Day After’ this season." Other than catching the nuclear holocaust TV film, the two families will also "watch David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear" as well as "Reagan’s STI speech."
But I think it’s safe to say that most will be eager to hear, "There will be some great ’80s musical moments, including a great David Bowie tribute that we’re really excited about." So get ready to "put on your red shoes and dance the blues" in this season’s high-octane return.
"The Americans" Season 4 premieres March 16 at 10pm on FX.