Say goodbye to wacky wigs for husband and wife KGB agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) on “The Americans.” It’s a sure sign that the Cold War spy series is winding down for Seasons 5 and 6. But it also means focusing more attention on the survival of their marriage and family.
“It was a transitional season and it was hard saying goodbye to [aliases] Clark and Jennifer because those looks are retired now, but it was fun doing more truth by craft with Philip,” said Peg Schierholz, who is head of hair.
“The Clark disguise became a hat that he would put on when he was outside for people just getting a quick glimpse of him. I actually did that old theater trick of sewing blond curls attached to a cap that he could put on and off quickly and dispose of easily. This was more true to what actual spies might have done.”
Despite pulling back, Season 4 still had its memorable moments. When Elizabeth goes undercover as Mary Kay seller Patty, she had fun for a while as a classic blond. “The way Keri looks at disguises is that they reveal a corner of Elizabeth’s psyche, and it was fun to put together pretty and flirty and she opens up in a way that we’ve never seen her do before,” remarked Schierholz.
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And when Philip meets with William (Dylan Baker), the biochemical warfare scientist, his look was patterned after real-life spy Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent-turned KGB mole who was convicted of espionage in ’94. “Our version ended up looking surprisingly like Mike Ditka, because I’d been trying to find a hairpiece that gave him a classic flat top crew cut,” added Schierholz.
Then there was the nod to the Gordo stoner vibe in the “Dinner for Seven” episode, in which Philip is disguised as Patty’s brother. And in “The Magic of David Copperfield V. The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” his older look landed somewhere between Dan Rather and Clark.
“They’re supposed to be lower middle income Americans on hard times, so his hair looked unkempt and uncut,” Schierholz recalled. But for a date character in the first episode (“Glanders”), Philip became a “dreamy Sven-kind of guy.”
However, Rhys and Russell were unrecognizable when they walked onto the “Glanders” set wearing blond wigs.
“And, of course, we threw [director] Tommy Schlamme one day when we put this really ghastly, short haircut on Keri when she opens the trunk of a car,” Schierholz observed.
“He found it hilarious, so we did get away with it.”