The star of the FX spy drama dishes on the show’s eerie parallels to modern-day U.S.-Russia relations and the projects she wants to tackle next.
The Americans is gearing up for its sixth and final season, and star Keri Russell thinks the timing is just right.
“It’s always nice to be able to be given the option to go out on a high note instead of at year 15 when they’re running out of storylines,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It will be sad to see it go but the time is right.”
Always a critical darling, the FX drama didn’t break into the Emmys until last year, when it received its first series nomination and nods for stars Russell and Matthew Rhys. Though the series didn’t crack the outstanding drama category this year, the co-stars still landed nominations in their respective acting categories.
Ahead of the Sept. ceremony, THR chatted with Russell about the end of Philip and Elizabeth’s journey, the show’s eerie parallels to modern-day U.S.-Russia relations and the projects she wants to tackle next.
So are you getting ready to shoot the final season?
Yes, we are on our summer break before starting the final season of shooting in October, and that will be the end of the show. So I purposely am really just not working and am seeing my friends and spending time with summer-skinned kids at the lake and running around in the mountains and really recharging so that I can really be present and enjoy that last season of the show.
How does it feel now that you’re approaching the end?
This will be the sixth year, which is hard to believe. By far, it’s one of my favorite characters I’ve been able to play. So it will be sad to see it go in that way, but I think it’s time. It’s always nice to be able to be given the option to go out on a high note instead of at year 15 when they’re running out of storylines. It will be sad to see it go but the time is right. I think for everyone — not just for the actors — but for the writers and for everyone to stay creatively into it and engaged, it’s good.
Looking ahead, what kind of projects do you see yourself doing next?
Who knows! That’s the crazy thing about this weird, gypsy life — and the great thing, too — is that you never know. You can never plan it — and as soon as you do, everything changes. I think because I’ve been in it for a while, I’m good now at not getting too used to planning very far in advanced. I’m kind of good at just letting it roll out as it does, and you kind of have to because you have no control over it anyway. And then there’s always this surprise of what’s next and it’s never what I thought was coming. I certainly didn’t think I’d go from — certainly there were many things between Felicity and this — but I didn’t think I’d go from Felicity to Elizabeth Jennings, a cold Russian spy. And it’s not something I was plotting, like, “Oh, maybe I could find a steely, communist Russian spy to play that kills people.” You never know and that’s the wild ride of this industry and this career is that you never know who you’re going to be bunking up with for some time.
What are the things you look for in a project?
So many things, but the truth is you consider many factors of it, like where does it shoot? Who will I be working with? What’s the story? But in truth, there’s usually one thing that sticks out. For me, it tends to be story — not necessarily my part of the story but the story as a whole — and if the story as a whole reaches me in some way, that’s usually my “in” to a job. But it can be to work with someone I care about or respect. Like when Matt Reeves asked me to do Planet of the Apes, I had no idea what I was going to be doing. But he called and I said, “OK, yes.” And then I was like, “Wait, am I playing an ape? What’s happening?” [Laughs.] He’s like, “Just, can you show up?” And you just do.
Speaking of Matt Reeves, he’s directing another massive franchise with The Batman. If he called you up again for a part in that film, would you do it?
Matt is one of my favorite, favorite people to work with. He and J.J. [Abrams] were obviously the creators of Felicity, and I feel like they were my entrance into this business, even though I had been working for years before that. They were my first real creative entrance into this business and into loving it. But yeah, I’d love to work with Matt. Those things are gigantic moving ships. Who knows what’s happening with that [film]. But I’d do anything he asked me to. If he were directing a McDonald’s commercial, I’d probably say yes.
How has the current political landscape impacted the show?
Luckily, because our show is a period piece and is placed in the 80’s, what’s happening politically doesn’t change our story because it’s already happened. There is this crazy fact that we are playing Russians and we read about them so much in the news, but we have the safety in that A) it’s a period piece and B) it’s really just a show about marriage, to me anyway. Just because we’ve having some interesting times with Russia at the moment politically I don’t think changes how we feel about Elizabeth and what she feels about Philip and vice versa. Hopefully at this point we’re entrenched enough in that relationship that we’re following that and not the political climate.
But what’s that like for you, as an actor, to get asked those questions now?
It’s sort of interesting that people are speaking about Russia because it doesn’t have any bearing on our show at this point. I feel like it’s become so much more of a family show. The political element of it [is less pronounced.] Unless Matthew’s dream comes true and Holly changes her name to Monica Lewinsky, and then we’ll see what really happens. [Laughs.] That was one of his pitches that made me laugh, among the many of them.
What’s the biggest misconception about Elizabeth?
It’s interesting because I like all the misconceptions. I think people think of her as being cold, but I like that people think that. It doesn’t bother me because that’s what’s complex about her. I don’t think she is. I say, go for it. Whatever you see in her, go for it. But to me she’s a really rich, complicated character — and on the surface, yes, cool and tough.
If Elizabeth were male, how do you think the character would be different?
I love where Elizabeth stands as a woman. I feel like she has so many strong typically male traits, but I love where she sits in that world. I admire those qualities so much that tend to be attributed to male characters. But I could say personally if I were male, the thing that would be different is I would have to spend a lot less time worrying about what to wear to the Emmys. It’d be like, “Oh, you’re wearing a suit, great. That took 5 minutes.”
If your character were to join another show or film, which would it be and why?
The Handmaid’s Tale because I feel like Elizabeth would kiss some ass for those ladies.
If you could switch roles with another Emmy nominee, who would it be and why?
Alec Baldwin because he’s killing it. Not that I want to play Donald Trump, but just huge respect to Alec.
What’s the strangest fan interaction you’ve had?
My favorite still to this day is the New York City construction worker who in season one yelled across the street to me, “Yo, you really kicked that lady’s ass.” I was like, “I feel so cool right now.”
What’s a project you had to turn down so that you could take this part?
Probably a Mommy & Me class. [Laughs.] I just had a baby so nothing.