‘The Americans’ star Matthew Rhys: Philip would defect ‘in a heartbeat’

Last week, I published the first two of the interviews I did on “The Americans” set in December, with producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields , and with actress Holly Taylor. Now it”s time for one of the show”s two leads, as charming Welshman(*) Matthew Rhys and I talked about where Philip”s head is at in season 3, the pros and cons of so much wig work, why Keri Russell is referred to on set as “The Hulk,” how “The A-Team” helped inform his performance as Philip, and more.

(*) My biggest regret about this interview? That I turned off the recorder right before FX”s Lana Kim prompted Rhys to share a memory of one of his first American jobs, as the killer in the final “Columbo” movie. This involved him doing a dead-on Peter Falk impression as he recalled that Falk wanted him to play the killer as a Cockney gangster, and after the first few takes pulled him aside and asked, “Where are you actually from?” Told Rhys was from Wales, Falk patted him on the shoulder and said, “I think maybe he should be a Welsh gangster instead, okay?”

So today you”re filming parts of four episodes, with three directors and two crews.

Matthew Rhys: Have we beaten some cable record? Yes, to me it”s a new kind of crazy.

So how do you keep it straight in your head where Philip is at in any one particular moment, when you”re bouncing from chronology to chronology?

Matthew Rhys: I chart it now very meticulously. It”s all written out like a little map, exactly where you”ve been, where you”re coming from, what”s happened, blah, blah. It”s the only way you can do it. And even then I still go, “Hang on” and check the script. There”s a lot of that.

Have there been any moments in the past, maybe not quite this busy, but where you were doing multiple episodes at once and you found yourself screwing up?

Matthew Rhys: Totally.Oh, hang on, I haven”t experienced that yet.” And then I was like, “Oh shit, I sort of played it as if I had. Oh well, good luck editing!”

Where do we find Philip as we return for the new season after what happened last season?

Matthew Rhys: Confused. Basically, the end of season 2, where we left off with Elizabeth dropping her bombshell, is where we pick Philip up. And that is the main preoccupation of his time and thoughts throughout this season as to the safety of his daughter.

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