Catching Up With ‘The Americans’ Surprising Guest Star

Senior Television Writer
05.02.17

FX

Tonight’s The Americans (which I reviewed here) featured a somewhat surprising guest performance, whom I got to interview — with spoilers — coming up just as soon as I bake a potato…

So, for the second time this season — and for a much longer stint than her supermarket cameo in “The Midges” — Alison Wright returned to the series as poor Martha, now living a very lonely existence in Moscow as a woman with an extremely limited command of Russian, and limited professional and romantic possibilities as a result.

I spoke with Wright yesterday about her return to the series, how much showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (or, as they’re referred to by the cast and crew, “the J’s”) have kept her in the loop, why her own grasp of Russian is better than poor Martha’s, and more.

Did you even know going into last season that that was the year Martha was going to be written out of the show as a regular character?

Well, there’s lots of things that I knew, yes. I don’t think that they approach it like deciding this is a season they’re going to write out a regular from the top. That wouldn’t be something they would ever tell you early on. They want to have the option to change they’re minds. They’re not gonna tell an actor that and freak ’em out. But, yes, they have kept me abreast of their plans for Martha from season one, really. So I’ve always been in the circle of trust as far as her storyline goes.

So when they put Martha on the plane last season, it was with the understanding that you would probably be back.

Yes.

Going into this year, did you know how much they were going to need you?

No, no, not how much. That’s always in flux, as well. But I knew we were going to see her more than once.

When you do an episode like your first one this year, where you’re on screen for maybe a minute, and you don’t have any dialogue, what goes into your process? What was filming that scene like for you?

It was great. It doesn’t really matter that much that she doesn’t say anything or doesn’t have any dialogue. It’s our reintroduction to the character and her life. It told us that she’s getting on with things, and she’s putting one foot in front of the other, and she’s showering, she’s getting dressed. She’s not a mess on the floor, she’s getting on with her life and doing the best she can do, it seems. That tells you a lot about who she is and how she is.

In between the airplane scene and when you got your script for your first scene back, did you have any theories about what her life in Russia was like?

Of course, yeah. I have to decide that. But ultimately it has to be what the J’s tell me it’s going to be. They had set out the season for me, so I did know what her story was going to be, and have time to take all that in.

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