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‘The Americans’: 10 Things We Learned From the Showrunners at TCA

“The Americans” showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields took a well-deserved victory lap at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday, on the heels of the FX drama nabbing breakthrough Emmy noms for drama series and acting bids for stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.

Weisberg and Fields addressed the process of mapping out the show’s final two seasons during the Q&A at the Beverly Hilton. The spoiler-conscious showrunners didn’t give up much in terms of plot points for season five and six. But a few things could be deduced from the pair’s cautious comments.

Here are 10 things we learned from “The Americans” panel:

– Martha lives! Alison Wright’s Martha Hanson character was shipped off to the Soviet Union at the end of last season after she learned the truth of her sham marriage to Rhys’ Clark alter ego. Weisberg and Fields wouldn’t confirm whether she will be seen again in the upcoming seasons but she’s definitely still kicking in the Motherland. “Martha’s not dead. She made it there,” Fields said.
– Season five will consist of 13 episodes. The final season will be 10 episodes, to keep the storytelling taut, Weisberg said.
– During the first season, Weisberg and Fields were very worried about whether the show could pull off extended scenes in the Soviet embassy with characters speaking entirely in Russian. “It’s crazy when we think back to the first season how risky it seemed to do those scenes in Russian,” Fields said.
– Margo Martindale and Frank Langella will be back next season in their roles as Soviet spy handlers for Rhys and Russell’s Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Martindale’s Claudia will have a “bigger story” next year, Weisberg said.
– The seed planted at the end of season four that Philip’s adult son Mischa from a previous relationship is about to crash the Jennings’ world in the U.S. was a “late realization” for the writing team. “When we last saw (Mischa) it was ambiguous if that character even really existed,” Weisberg said.
– Weisberg and Fields’ vision for how the series would end didn’t take shape until the break between season one and season two. “We had to figure out what the show was first,” Fields said. In the beginning, the primary goal was clear: “Don’t get canceled,” Weisberg said.
– As tense as things were between Philip and Elizabeth and their teenage daughter Paige (played by Holly Taylor) at the end of season four, just wait. “The stuff that’s been percolating and brewing with the Paige recruitment and them struggling in this incredible triangle is really going to finally come to a boil,” Weisberg said.
– When oh when will Noah Emmerich’s rock-ribbed FBI guy Stan Beeman finally realize that the Ruskie spies he seeks are right across the street? “The suspicions that have been percolating between the Jennings and their across-the-street neighbor are going to get more suspicious but in surprising ways,” Fields said.
– Of all the wigs and disguises the producers have thrust upon Russell and Rhys, the only one that Russell has rejected is a wig that is way too close to her “Felicity” persona from the WB Network days. Everybody else in the “Americans” company has put it on for a picture. But not Russell, Fields said.
– Weisberg was particularly nervous about whether the nine-month time jump that the show took in season four would work. “Joe’s first words after seeing the director’s cut was ‘Oh my god, it worked,’ ” Fields said. Weisberg gave a lot of credit to a discreet hairstyling choice. “It was such a subtle, simple thing — we tied Paige’s hair back into a ponytail and that gave her a sterner look. It was the littlest thing but it did so much to make it work,” he said.