Glasnost is coming to “The Americans.”
As the critically acclaimed FX drama heads into its sixth and final season next year, the show’s timeline is catching up to 1985 – the seminal year when Mikhail Gorbachev took over as leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s reforms led to more openness in the Communist country, but it also led the groundwork for its eventual dissolution.
Speaking Thursday evening at an Emmys For Your Consideration event in North Hollywood, “The Americans” executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg kept spoilers to a minimum, as usual. But they confirmed that the changes in the Soviet Union will play a major role in the show’s storylines as it head towards a finale.
“No matter where we go next season, we’re going to be in Gorbachev time,” Weisberg said. “Which was a very big change. The changes didn’t happen overnight, but they started happening pretty fast.”
[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the Season 5 finale of “The Americans.”]
The Jennings come close to heading back to Russia at the end of Season 5, but ultimately decide to stay put when they realize a government official that Philip has been spying on has been given a big promotion — overseeing the “Soviet Division” for the CIA. Their decision to stay may put a new stress in their relationship, and what’s going on back in the U.S.S.R. won’t help matters.
“There’s going to be a new power in the Soviet Union and it’s is going to affect everything,” Weisberg said. “The political and personal in the show. That will create tensions and problems and issues in the Jennings’ marriage and Jennings family, and it’s going to ripple out in a lot of ways [both] exciting and emotional. The world is changing and the world is going to be changing for our show, too.”
Most of the show’s stars have already been briefed on where the final season will go, but they remain tight-lipped. “PAIGE KILLS HENRY!” shouted Rhys on the panel, to big laughs. That’s not true… as far as we know.
“I was fully comfortable [with where they are going],” Russell said of the producers. “It’s been such a delightful surprise all the way through, so I didn’t think the ending would be any different.”
Noah Emmerich, who plays FBI agent Stan and lives across the street from the Jennings, knows he’s in for a big moment next season if and when his character finally learns the truth about his neighbors. “I hope his soul is not overwhelmingly crushed by betrayal by his best friend,” he said.
Holly Taylor, who plays the Jennings’ teenage daughter Paige, hopes her character finally gets to do some spy work before the show ends. “I want to be a spy! It’s not set in stone. Paige still has a lot to learn about her parents,” she said. “She’s a little more understanding and willing to hear their side of it. I’m happy where she’s going, and I hope it continues that way.”
Margo Martindale, who plays the Jennings’ Russian handler, Claudia, has an even more specific request for her character before the show ends: “I want to slit one more person’s throat!”
Since “The Americans” takes place in the 1980s, the idea of a Donald Trump presidency won’t be broached. But Fields said having Russia dominating the headlines these days has had an impact in how people perceive the show.
“It sure impacts the questions we get,” he said. “And it impacts the way the show is experienced by the audience. It has to. Because the state of the world will impact how the audience experience the show. And it impacts our subconscious, so it impacts some of what we do on the show. We work very hard to isolate ourselves when we’re writing to keep ourselves in the bubble of the 1980s. In a way, that’s easy because the show is set in the ’80s, so that reality can’t encroach in the overlay. But it has to seep in.”