Paige Jennings was destined to go into the family business, “The Americans” showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields told reporters Friday as cast members and producers of the beloved FX drama discussed plans for the show’s sixth and final season, which bows March 28.
Weisberg and Fields said they have been planning for some time for Paige (played by Holly Taylor) to follow her mother into the Soviet spy ranks for some time. Her younger brother Henry (played by Keidrich Sellati), however, is another story.
“From the beginning, Paige sort of had her mother’s Russian soul and that was going to work throughout the series and create a certain darkness inside her,” Weisberg, creator of the 1980s-set series starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as covert Soviet spies in Washington, D.C. “But you could feel from the beginning that Henry did not get even the part of his father that had a Russian soul. He got sort of his father’s American side, and even though he probably, like Paige, had deep down some sense that something was wrong, he just didn’t seem affected by it from the very beginning. He seemed like the one true American kid from the beginning.”
Taylor said she’d hoped the Paige would show the same backbone as her mother and become a covert operative. But she also dismissed it as “a far-fetched hope of mine” until the storyline started to come to fruition Season 3. Taylor hailed the show for its nuanced portrayal of female and male characters.
“I feel it doesn’t get talked about enough, that kind of stereotypical gender reversal. It’s like we have such a strong female protagonist who is so gung-ho about her cause and so passionate about it, and then the male character who is so much more sensitive, but it’s not portrayed in any kind of negative light,” Taylor said. “That’s just how they are, and it works for their family. But they also still can get their job done. I think that’s amazing.”
Russell is still too engaged in the hard work of being Elizabeth Jennings to reflect much on the legacy of the FX drama series. It’s not a cushy job at this time of year, she observed. FX had to charter a private plane for “The Americans” team and other network talent to make it to TCA after the Bomb Cyclone snowstorm crippled air travel out of the East Coast.
“We shoot in the dead of winter in New York, and it’s such an uphill sprint in a great way. I think that type of work lends itself to the show and the cold and the struggle of it all,” Russell said. “I feel like heads are still down charging up that hill. There’s not a lot of time for reflection yet. It’s kind of just about getting through these last few months. We really only have two months left, but I will say, because we’ve sort of read a lot of the scripts now, that it feels really good and satisfying what Joe and Joel have created.”
Among other highlights from the session:
Weisberg and Fields said they have known the broad arc of the series ending for some time, but they are still fine-tuning the final script. “We won’t be done writing it until we land on the very last frame that we lock of the final episode,” Fields said.
Taylor pointed out a tantalizing mystery from the show’s standing kitchen set. “In the Jennings’ kitchen, there are two dogs on the fridge, and none of us know where that dog came from,” she said.
Rhys made reference to fact that the show has changed his life by bringing him together, off screen, with Russell. Russell had her first child, a boy, with Rhys last year. “I reflect on it every morning when he wakes us up at 5 a.m., and I say, ‘How did you happen?’ ” Rhys said.