It took 20 minutes for the cast and creators of “The Americans” to address the elephant in the room.
For a show that centers around undercover KGB Russian spies in America, bringing up President Donald Trump seemed like an expected segue. During the FX show’s FYC event at the Saban Media Center at the Television Academy on Thursday evening, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, executive producers and writers for “The Americans,” said they already broke the story for Season 5 right as Trump was getting elected and preparing to enter office.
Fields said when writing, they tried to isolate themselves into a bubble of the 1980s to stick to the show’s setting. However, the current political climate subtly tapped onto their subconscious.
“It sure impacts the questions we get,” Fields laughed, in regards to Trump’s influence on the show. “It also clearly impacts the way in which the show is experienced by the audience as it has to,” he added. “Because the state of the world is going to impact the way the audience experiences a show.”
After airing the Season 5 finale on May 30, Michael Schneider, editor-at-large for Variety and executive editor of Indiewire, hosted a panel for the cast and crew, which included Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Margo Martindale, and Holly Taylor, as well as executive producers Weisberg, Fields, and Chris Long. The panelists took a look back at Season 5 while hinting — without giving away spoilers — how they plan to wrap up the show’s final ten remaining episodes.
One particularly notable scene in the Season 5 finale was a montage set to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” which played as the characters tie up loose ends and prepare for what’s to come. Long said sometimes the music comes first, and sometimes the story points come first for similar scenes. In this case, the montage was written and they just needed a song to fit.
“Once we heard ‘Yellow Brick Road,’ that was it for me,” Long said. “I was so frightened the guys wouldn’t like it because I fell in love with it and I was so in love with it. I got very attached to it.”
Fields then explained his experience of watching the director’s cut.
“Chris was showing us the montage and he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to show it to you with three songs, and I have a favorite, but I’m not going to tell you which one it was,” Fields said. “And then he played two songs and then ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ came on and he had the hugest smile.”
“That’s why I’m behind the camera,” Long joked.
Despite all of the action in the series, Long said the most stressful part was actually trying to get Rhys and Emmerich’s characters to play racquetball. “I kept saying cut, and they’d go, ‘Why do we keep cutting?’ I said, ‘Because you can’t play for shit.’ We put the ball in afterwords.”
Toward the end of the panel, the actors shared hopes for their characters in the final season. Emmerich wants “love, peace, and harmony” for Stan. He added, “And I hope his soul is not overwhelmingly crushed by the betrayal of his best friend.”
“Phil can always say, ‘You shot my wife,’” Rhys interjected. “In Season 1, you shot my wife. Everybody forgets that.”
In a running joke throughout the duration of the panel, Taylor adamantly repeated her dream for Paige, saying, “I want to be a spy.” Paige has been practicing self-defense as she continues to learn more about her parents (Russell and Rhys), she explained. “I think she’s a little more willing and understanding to hear their side of it instead of just attacking them with questions all the time,” Taylor said.
Martindale had one simple request for her character, KGB spy Claudia: “I want to slit one more person’s throat.”
The panel ended teasing spoilers for the show’s final season, with Rhys jokingly blurting out, “Paige kills Henry!”
Though the showrunners didn’t reveal much, they shared that a new power in the Soviet Union is going to affect everything. “The world is changing,” says Weisberg. “And the world is going to change in our little family too.”
“The Americans” returns for Season 6 in early 2018 on FX.