Matthew Rhys Recalls Pranking ‘The Americans’ Writers Room After ‘a Boozy Lunch’

Producers were tempted to blame Rhys' vandalism of his own picture on their assistants until the actor came clean.
"The Americans"
"The Americans"
©FX Networks/Courtesy Everett Collection

From 2013 to 2018, Joseph Weisberg’s “The Americans” thrilled audiences by telling a gut-wrenching story of a marriage dissolving against the backdrop of the Cold War — but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t time for fun in the writers’ room.

During a panel at the Paley Center for Media held on Wednesday to commemorate the show’s 10th anniversary (via People), producer Joel Fields recalled a prank that star Matthew Rhys played on his co-star Keri Russell and the show’s writers.

“Joe [Weisberg] and I walked in [the writers’ room] one day and someone had on Matthew and Keri’s pictures – they’d been defaced. There’s a devil on Matthew and a funny mustache on Keri,” Fields said. “And we called the assistants in and we called the staff in and we go, ‘Guys, it’s all good to have fun it’s fine, but this is a professional and respectful place to work and we really need to know who did this?’ And one of the assistants finally goes, ‘It’s Matthew.'”

Rhys had no reservations about admitting his behind-the-scenes debauchery. He told the audience that he had the idea to deface his own headshot after a round of day drinking put him in a jovial mood.

“We had a boozy lunch,” Rhys said. “And I was like, ‘New disguise options!'”

None of the alcohol-induced shenanigans that took place behind the scenes ended up interfering with the team’s ability to produce excellent television. “The Americans” was a consistent critical darling throughout its six season run on FX, with many people lamenting that the espionage drama didn’t receive more love from the Emmys.

“This is the destruction of a marriage — or its redemption,” IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote in his review of the show’s final season. “It’s a war for the soul of a country — or a peace treaty. The stakes are high, and the rewards are plenty. It’s why ‘The Americans’ has been and remains one of the best programs on television: It challenges viewers for all the right reasons. It pushes back on expectations to make you dwell on many fleeting moments that build who you are overall.”

The beloved series also produced lasting love between Rhys and Russell, who are currently married. The couple recently reunited with Margo Martindale, one of their co-star’s from “The Americans,” in Elizabeth Banks’ comedic thriller “Cocaine Bear.”

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