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Keri Russell on ‘The Americans’ Graphic Tooth-Pulling Scene and 5 Other Emmy Contender Quickies

“My favorite aspect of the show has so little to do with them being spies,” actress says of FX espionage drama

For Keri Russell, sometimes filming a compelling scene can be like pulling teeth. Literally.

With Emmy nominations voting underway, TheWrap spoke to Russell, star of FX’s period spy drama “The Americans,” about Season 3’s highlights.

Among them: An excruciating scene during which her TV husband Philip (played by Matthew Rhys) yanks a chomper out of her mouth with a primitiveness that would make the dentist from “The Marathon Man” wince.

TheWrap: What was the toughest thing you had to do this season?
Keri Russell: The tooth-pulling scene [from the episode “Open House”]. It was such an abstract scene … But luckily Tommy Schlamme directed the episode and had a really clear idea of how he wanted to do it. And I just love working with him. So I just kind of came in with no expectations and just went for it, with whatever he said. His whole take on it was he wanted it to be like a really intimate, almost sex scene. So we just kind of did that. And luckily Matthew [Rhys] is so good.

What was the most fun thing you got to do this season?
In a way, that [same] scene. Sometimes it’s a surprise of something, you’re like, “Ah, I’m sort of dreading that,” and then it turned out to be so fun and intimate and … such a weird part of my job. So that was probably the most fun, surprisingly.

Let’s assume that somebody has never seen your show. What would you say to persuade them to watch it?
My favorite aspect of the show has so little to do with them being spies or just being a period piece. When the show is really working for me, it’s a show about a complicated marriage, and the push and pull of … being intimate with somebody in a relationship and in a family, and how that affects a relationship. This story [being] set in the context of the spy world allows you to explore so many aspects of what it’s like to be known and seen and be duplicitous, and how much you want your partner to know about you. When all of those elements are in place, to me it’s a really satisfying show.

Who else on your show really deserves an Emmy, and why?

Oh, Matthew Rhys, for sure. For sure! I mean, he’s so fucking good! I always say, and it’s so true, that there’s that term in cycling when you draft someone. Like, I’m just drafting, man. You get out there and I’m like, “Thank God I get to work with him today.” He just elevates everything … He’s just meant to do this … And he’s also not a tortured person that’s tough to work with. He’s just easy. It’s fun.

Are you a binge TV watcher, or a once-a-weeker?
Total binge watcher, are you kidding me? I have little kids, so I haven’t been watching a lot of stuff recently. But I remember when “Homeland” came out, yeah — I think I watched the whole thing in one sitting. And it’s so good to do if you’re sick and you’re home in bed.

If you could add any new category to the Emmys, serious or silly, what would it be?
Oh, god … [Laughs.] I don’t know. I hope you’re talking to Matthew Rhys, because he’ll have some brilliant answer.

If you’re nominated, which episode would you submit and why?
I haven’t seen any of them — shit! … The one that I kind of remember most this season was this one where … Philip and I went to tell Paige that we’re spies (“Stingers”). That episode, if we’re talking about bringing it into the context of a marriage and a family show and a relationship show, I feel that that was very much that. I thought the story was told really slowly and very real, and Holly (Taylor, who plays Paige) just broke my heart in those scenes. It really struck me and it hit me on a parent, personal level just how much we’ve let this kid down.