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Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys on Vulnerability and Intimacy in ‘The Americans’

“The Americans” tells the story of an arranged marriage, and in a way is the product of one.

FX unveiled the second season premiere Monday night at New York’s Paris Theater, two days ahead of its Feb. 26 television debut. Set in the 1980s, “The Americans” is the story of Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys), two undercover KGB agents posing as a suburban married couple. The series was created by former CIA officer turned screenwriter Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Weisberg said at the premiere that when he and Fields were paired together to develop his idea for “The Americans” two years ago, it felt, at first, like as much of an arranged marriage as Phillip and Elizabeth’s union, though one with much less sex and violence.

Weisberg and Fields were introduced by FX president John Landgraf, who praised the show’s creative team and marketers, before pointing out that the first season of “The Americans” was nominated for more awards by the Television Critics Association than any other 2013 rookie, and won for Outstanding New Program. He proudly read glowing excerpts from some advanced reviews of the second season, taking particular relish in one that called “The Americans” superior to that other acclaimed sophomore show, “House of Cards.”

The premiere episode didn’t skimp on either the violence or sex, and finds Elizabeth and Phillip struggling to keep their family safe as the Cold War continues to intensify. At the end of the last season Elizabeth and Philip went from agents pretending to be a loving couple to being an actual couple, and Rhys said the season will see them work together to stay one step ahead of their political adversaries.

“As a result of them becoming a real relationship, the other elements of the job that as of now haven’t become a problem becomes enormous,” he said. “What’s fantastic is it afflicts both the domestic and espionage worlds. Phillip and Elizabeth are a united front now. (Season two) is dealing with the danger that is intensifying by the minute.”

For a show about espionage and secrets, Rhys and Russell were both appropriately tight lipped about what to expect for season two, but Russell couldn’t help but talk about about her favorite upcoming plot, and how it relates to the larger themes of the season.

“Without spoiling things, (teenage daughter) Paige gets involved in this very seemingly innocuous… hobby, and any other parent would love it and think she’s such a good kid,” Russell said. “And I love that the character of Elizabeth is a crazy, hardcore spy, but then she’s losing her shit. This teenager is unraveling her because this teenager has this new hobby!

“I think if last season was a metaphor on marriage, to me anyway, this season to me is really a metaphor on family, and again as much as we’re talking about the 1980s and spies and all that stuff, to me the important throughlines are really protecting your family,” Russell said. “Maybe it was naive, but I think this is the first time Elizabeth has really seen the danger that her children are in. And now that she is more vulnerable-slash-messier in her work, because of her new vulnerability and intimacy with Phillip and her family, I think it endangers her kids more.”

The cast and crew headed to the after-party at the Plaza Hotel following the screening.