‘The Americans’ team talks intimacy, Paige’s future and Margo Martindale

01.18.15 5 years ago

My string of three consecutive afternoon live-blogs concludes with FX's “The Americans.”

There's the off-chance that I may be distracted by the Patriots-Colts game, which is also happening on my computer, but follow along to see what “The Americans” creators Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, plus stars Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich had to say about Season 3 at the Television Critics Association press tour.

Note that we've seen four episodes for the new season. If anything spoiler-y is asked, I won't live-blog those answers. 

3:58 p.m. Another shout-out for the HitFix Critics' Poll, which featured “The Americans.” Woot!

3:59 p.m. Oh and I'm totally possibly maybe watching football in the background. Kinda. But I'm also totally paying attention to these clips from Season 3. 

4:01 p.m. Touchdown! And by that, I mean that the “Americans” stars and producers have arrived on the stage. 

4:02 p.m. I'm going to endeavor to tell Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields apart. Do the best I can. The first question is about Paige. When did they decide they wanted to go down that path with the character? Weisberg said the second generation thing came up in the midst of the second season. Fields says that after the first season they wondered what Paige was wondering, but it was only breaking the finale that they realized what they wanted to do with the character.

4:04 p.m. Have contemporary Russian events shaped the show. “I think Russia was supposed to be a nice, friendly country. We were supposed to be getting along fine,” says Weisberg, so says this has screwed everything up. Fields says that the show exists in its own time, but he admits this might change the way audiences receive the show, because it's about examining the nature of the enemy and realizing that the enemy is made up of human beings.

4:06 p.m. So we know if the second generation thing was real? Weisberg says they know of at least one KGB  and one SVR example of this taking place. “I think it's really relatable,” Keri Russell says. She thinks that raising children is an emotional experience and each parent has a different view on it. “It feels like a huge injustice for someone to not know who they are. Everyone deserves to know who they are,” Russell says.

4:07 p.m. Fields says they aren't afraid to let go of favored actors or characters. So they're looking forward to watching things progress with Nina following out of where we left last season. “'The Americans' Season 3… Wider scope!” Fields says of where that story goes.

4:08 p.m. How do Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell balance action and emotion on the show? Rhys calls the schedule both “frenetic” and “athletic.” “There's no danger of it becoming dull at any point,” Rhys says. “It makes for incredibly interesting play,” he adds. Rhys says that the emotional scenes pay off in the action scenes. “It's fun,” Russell says. “Yes, it's hard sometimes, but the truth is that for the most part it's fun. It's such a rare job,” she says. “Maybe because I'm a girl and maybe what's out there for me is different… but it's great work,” she says. She loves the scenes about the complicated marriage. “What other show would you see Felicity beat up John Boy Walton,” Rhys teases.

4:12 p.m. They're spoiling a key, harrowing scene from the premiere. I'm not gonna spoil it.

4:13 p.m. Have they personally grown more paranoid or skeptical as a result of acting in the show? “I can spot a wig at about 25 yards,” Rhys says.

4:13 p.m. Don't the Emmy voters or viewers recognize the show so much? And are they making any changes to the show this season to get a wider audience? And here's our first reference to “Allegiance.” “I think our strong inclination is just to keep trying to make the show better,” Weisberg says. They don't know how to make the show broader, but they want to make the show better. “You also have a great subplot about our son defecting and going to another network. We're going to call it 'Grievance,'” Rhys cracks.

4:15 p.m. Another spoiler discussion. Phillip has a mission that's conflicting for him as a father and a human and he likes playing that conflict and finding the balance.

4:16 p.m. Is Paige's future going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back for Elizabeth and Phillip? “We hope not. We like their marriage! We hope also that this is a different kind of test,” Weisberg says. This is a couple with love, but also a conflict about the most important things in their lives. “Everybody can relate to that. It just happens to be a little heightened for these two,” Weisberg adds.

4:17 p.m. “I always find that in the playing of other characters other than Phillip the jump from Phillip to the other characters is as minimal as possible in order for me to keep it as believable as possible,” Rhys says of Phillip's different characters.  “It's not about transformation or, for me, chameleon work,” he adds. “It's such a great conceit in a show,” Russell agrees. 

4:21 p.m. I ask the obligatory Margo Martindale question. “We love Margo as a person and we love Claudia as a character and Claudia's not dead. We had some plans and we were pretty deep into our season when we got that news,” Fields says. He teases that he isn't sure how they were able to fit her in, but then repeats again that Claudia isn't dead. Well, there's you go. “And don't think we're not pushing for her to come back as Frank Langella's former lover. Some sort of tryst and then a fist-fight,” Rhys adds.

4:22 p.m. Have they heard from any spies who came in from the cold? In the press they've seen some nice comments.

4:23 p.m. How did they come up with the role for Frank Langella? They needed a new handler and they figured that The Center wouldn't want to repeat the mistakes made with the two previous handlers. Frank was at the top of the list. They went and had dinner with him at Harry's. Then they had a second dinner with him at Harry's. Then they had ice cream with him. “We said, 'We'd love to work with you, but we've got to stop with the eating,'” Fields say. 

4:24 p.m. Noah Emmerich directed an episode this season. “Besides the difficult cast, it was really great,” he jokes. “I felt really supported and embraced and I had a great time doing it,” Emmerich. He directed Episode 7. “It's it like to direct scenes that you're in?” asks Weisberg, who wasn't able to come to the set that week. “You'll notice there are a lot of Stan close-ups in that episode. My take on it was that the entire thing should be seen from Stan's point of view,” Emmerich jokes. 

4:27 p.m. Will Emmerich be disappointed if Stan doesn't learn the truth and get a confrontation before the end of the series? “I certainly feel as a fan of the show a desire to see that come to a more complicated entanglement,” he says, though he doesn't want to commit to what he wants to see. “What if you come really close again and it just goes over your head?” Weisberg jokes. Emmerich doesn't speculate, he says, because he doesn't want to be right accidentally. 

4:28 p.m. It's pointed out that Rhys came up through acting school and Keri Russell grew up acting. How did they arrive at the same place via different paths? “I think the Mickey Mouse Club was very fancy as well,” Russell says. “It's true. I didn't get in,” Rhys agrees. Rhys says there's more than one way to skin a cat. 

4:30 p.m. How close is Elizabeth to her daughter? Or would she choose The Cause? Russell explains that she doesn't see it as recruiting a teenager to do what she does. She thinks that Elizabeth believes it's essential to know who you are and she doesn't like Paige being indoctrinated by “some kid with a guitar singing about Jesus.” “I think it does come out of great love for her daughter and wanting her to be a substantial human being,” Russell says. And when Phillip has a different opinion, Elizabeth takes it as a rejection of who she is. “I think it's a complicated dance,” she adds.

4:34 p.m. Are there rules for how they depict Phillip and Elizabeth's intimacies, versus the intimacies they have with other people? Russell says there's a scene this season that discusses that. “We have this really weird, vulnerable, awful relationship conversation about sexuality,” Russell says. She loves the show most when it's about the complications of that relationship. Fields says they've done a lot of research on sex workers and sexual abuse victims and people in plural relationships. “There's a lot of sharing, but there's also a lot of trust,” Fields says of the relationship between the writers and the actors. Both sides get input.

4:38 p.m. The show has mostly stuck to its core characters. Why haven't they expanded in a major way? “For us, plot and character are so intertwined that it's hard for us to peel those apart,” Fields says. Weisberg says they're adding new characters, but “it takes a long time for them to work their way into the fabric of the show.”

That's all, folks…

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