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‘The Americans’ Showrunners on Emmy Nominations: “I Didn’t Believe It”

“I thought I very likely misheard it,” said creator Joe Weisberg of his disbelief when he heard the FX drama called out during the nominations ceremony.
After four seasons on the air, FX’s critically acclaimed espionage drama The Americans finally got some recognition from the TV Academy.

The drama nabbed a total of five Emmy nominations on Thursday morning, which is the same as the total number of noms the show had racked up over its past three eligible years. Not only did the series get a nod for best drama this year — lead actors Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys received nominations in their respective acting categories, a first for both of the veteran television actors.

Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields hopped on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how they found out the big news, who their first call was and why they think this is the year that the espionage drama finally got some awards love.

Congrats! How does it feel to get nominated?

WEISBERG We are feeling good. Joel is a couple hundred hours away but I’m convinced that he has likely not stopped smiling.

FIELDS Big smiles all around.

How’d you guys hear the good news?

WEISBERG I was in Woodstock, New York, starring at my phone, just waiting to see what the results would be, and — I’m just being honest — I was very pessimistic.

FIELDS And I was at a cafe in Ottawa, Canada, where I’m vacationing with my family. I had very sketchy internet. We all crowded around, and I guess I missed Matthew and Keri’s nominations — but then it finally started to function again. They started rolling in and the phones started buzzing. It was quite something to be sitting with the family for that.

Joe, you said you were pessimistic — so what was your reaction when you heard announcers Anthony Anderson and Lauren Graham say “The Americans?”

WEISBERG Well I had dropped my daughter off at camp and I had told my wife, “I’m coming home for the bad news.” [Laughs.] I could not be alone for the bad news! But I was also late so I got the thing working on my phone just in time for the reality series category and then the final two. Then it came on for best drama and it went “The Americans” — and I was so pessimistic that I sort of didn’t believe it. I thought I very likely misheard it. So I took it in for a second, and then I thought, “No, that’s definitely what they said.”

Joel, were you at least a little more optimistic than Joe?

WEISBERG Joel is so optimistic that he doesn’t call “assuming we won’t get it” pessimistic. [Laughs.]

FIELDS That’s correct. To me, pessimism would be assuming we wouldn’t get it and someone would punch me in the face. [Laughs.] I wasn’t particularly pessimistic. I just assumed we weren’t going to get nominated. I spent the morning saying to my wife, “You know, we’re here on vacation — we’ll go out, we’ll be knocking around the city. I don’t know if I’m going to watch it. I’ll just find out later because it doesn’t even matter. It’s been so many times.” And she finally said, “Just turn it on.” The Americans starts with the letter ‘A’ so as soon as they say “best drama series nominees,” I figure this will end quickly because they’ll announce Better Call Saul and then we’ll be able to move on with our day. [Laughs.] So it was quite a shock.

Why do you think this is the year that The Americans was finally recognized?

WEISBERG I don’t have a good theory yet. I think by next week I’ll have a good theory. [Laughs.]

FIELDS I will say we have enjoyed incredible support from critics and that support has been a lot wind under our sails. We have a passionate audience. I think there was a lot of noise from the audience and the critics over the years but I think it really reached a crescendo this season, so maybe that has something to do with it. And maybe we’re just in a time where some shows hit the zeitgeist immediately and others can build over time, and we’re fortunate to be on a network that from the beginning said, “We’re going to support you and stick with the show.” We’ve been able to build and we feel very grateful for that.

WEISBERG Emmys are a complicated thing, and I’ve certainly noticed that people are always trying to figure out why you do and why you don’t get nominated. There are so many terrific shows on right now. There must be 25 shows that deserve to get nominated. And there’s so many people voting for people they love that it’s pretty hard to figure out why one thing does and one thing doesn’t. But I agree with everything Joel said and I also feel like we got lucky.

Any crazy celebration plans for tonight?

WEISBERG I’m going to have an extra large lunch and then I’m going to call a lot of people and say, “Thank you.” We have a lot of people to share the good news with.

FIELDS Yeah, we’ll celebrate by saying, “Thanks,” to everybody who has been a part of this. We’re particularly thrilled to see Matthew and Keri’s extraordinary work recognized because they’re amazing. There should be a separate category for actors who play multiple characters. It’s great to see that recognized by the Academy and their peers.

WEISBERG And that is a party to us.

FIELDS Yeah, reaching out to everybody is going to involve a lot of hooting and hollering and jumping up and down!

Have you talked with Matthew and Keri yet?

FIELDS That was our first call and, boy, was a fun one.

WEISBERG They were thrilled, obviously. It’s very good news and very exciting to them. We were all reminiscing about the fact that we’ve certainly gotten used to the underdog feeling. So it’s a little bit of a turnaround that we’ll have to get used to now. I will say after 30 seconds, now we’re used to it. [Laughs.]

What’s the one show you guys feel guilty about not watching yet?

WEISBERG For me, I’ve seen the pilot but I’m dying to watch the rest of Mr. Robot. So I’m not there yet but I will be soon.

FIELDS It’s exactly the same here. We’re three episodes in — and we’ve got both the Emmy discs and it’s all on our DVR. We’re just waiting to get back to town and binge it!