No good usually comes from focusing on the teenage kids of cable drama anti-heroes and heroines. A notable exception: Paige Jennings, the eldest child of the KGB sleeper agents at the center of FX”s “The Americans,” which returns for a third season tonight at 10. “The Americans” actually got better in its second season by concentrating more on Paige, first with her investigating her parents” odd comings and goings, then with her horrifying her secretly Communist parents by exploring Christianity, and finally with the KGB telling Philip and Elizabeth that they must recruit Paige as an asset to the cause of Mother Russia.
That last directive drives much of the conflict in the new season, and when I visited “The Americans” set in Brooklyn last month (the same day I interviewed producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields), I sat down with young actress Holly Taylor to discuss the challenges of playing an ’80s teen, her reaction to learning that Paige might be recruited, and the advantages of having Felicity Porter for a TV mom.
Let”s go back to the beginning, when you first auditioned for the part. What were you told about what exactly Paige might be up to or what they wanted out of you?
Holly Taylor: To be honest, I didn”t really know that much. They didn”t really give me that much information. They basically just said she was a teenager growing up in suburbia, and her parents were Russians and it took place in a Cold War. Other than that, I didn”t get too much information.
How old were you when you got the part?
Holly Taylor: I think I was 13.
This period was obviously long before you were even born. What kind of research did you find yourself doing, if any, to sort of get a sense of the period?
Holly Taylor: Well I definitely looked into the Cold War and the spy aspect of it, but I also was kind of learning about it in school. Every year in school, they go over the same topic about the Cold War. I was getting it in school also so I didn”t have to do too much research.