Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, the creators of “The Americans,” joined cast members Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich at a PaleyFest:Made in NY panel on Friday night to discuss the FX show about 80s Russian spies — and reveal clues about season 2 of the FX drama, which will return in January 2014.
In the show, Russell and Rhys play Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, married KGB spies passing themselves off as suburban Americans in suburban Washington D.C. shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected president. Emmerich plays the couple’s neighbor, Stan Beeman, who just happens to be an FBI agent.
Part spy drama, part portrait of a marriage, “The Americans” examines the roles we play in our every day lives and our constantly shifting allegiances and alliances. While the first season focused on the strains and stresses on the Jennings’ marriage, the second season will devote more time to the Jennings’ children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), the creators said.
“The last season was an exploration of marriage. We hope to explore family more in the second season,” said Fields. The news isn’t exactly a surprise given that during last season’s finale, Paige was snooping in her parent’s room and is clued into the fact that her parents are hiding something. Fields also said we should expect more subtitles in season 2 since the show will introduce more Russian characters.
Weisberg, who worked in the CIA’s directorate of operations from 1990 to 1994, said that the CIA inadvertently gave him the idea for the show. “While I was taking the polygraph exam to get in, they asked the question, ‘Are you joining the CIA in order to gain experience about the intelligence community so that you can write about it later — which had never occurred to me. I was totally joining the CIA because I wanted to be a spy. But the second they asked that question…then I thought, ‘Now I’m going to fail the test.'”
Here are some other highlights from the panel:
On ‘The Sopranos:’
“The Sopranos changed everything for television. It was a really inspirational show. It’s been an inspiration for us.” — Joe Weisberg
On shooting in New York:
Keri Russell said she loves shooting in New York, where she lives. “We had a scene last season where there was real snow. It’s hard to fake that.”
On whether Stan suspects the Jennings:
“Hopefully, you don’t know with any degree of certainty what Stan knows or doesn’t know. I do think Stan is an exceedingly intelligent and handsome man.” — Noah Emmerich
On the challenge of playing a spy:
“It’s a gift in that respect, the duplicity of those moments where you are someone playing someone playing someone, it’s as challenging as it is rewarding when it happens.” — Matthew Rhys
On practical preparation for the roles:
“We had a great training session day with Joe (Weisberg) leading us in counter-intelligence techniques….even how to follow someone, something rudimentary, like how to follow someone without being noticed. What are the right angles? What’s the right distance and what’s the right behavior?” — Noah Emmerich
On whether audiences would accept KGB agents as the ‘heroes:’
“There was a lot of concern early on that having KGB spies as the heroes of a show was going to be a real problem. Would people be willing to sympathize with that? We talked about it and we worried about it. Are people going to sympathize with bad guys?…But when we cast these guys (Russell and Rhys) and saw them read for the first time, the fear went away overnight…oh, everyone’s going to love them!” — Joe Weisberg
On the sex scenes:
“I find comfort in the fact that there is a saving grace in that we’re sort of always using the sexuality to get something. There’s something — maybe being a woman — about when you’re called about to do a scene that has to be so romantic and so sexy and so beautiful… there’s something so freeing about the sexuality of this show because it has a purpose. You’re doing it do get something. You’re duplicitous. So you’re never having to be sexy. You’re just trying to get them to respond. In that, it’s liberating as an actor.” — Keri Russell
On how much is based on real life:
“Most of the stuff that seems the most ridiculous…is real.” — Joe Weisberg