With just two seasons left of The Americans, fans of the FX series about Cold War-era Soviet espionage are eager to know how it will end.
Co-showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg remained tight-lipped about specific developments planned for seasons five and six during The Hollywood Reporter’s TV Talks panel discussion with chief TV critic Tim Goodman but they did discuss, in broad terms, how they were approaching the end of the critically-acclaimed show (which earned its first Emmy nominations in major categories this year). And star Matthew Rhys was full of humorous suggestions for a dramatic finale.
Speaking at the 92nd Street Y in New York, the actor, who was joined by his on- and off-screen partner Keri Russell, joked throughout the panel about ideas for how the central secret, that Rhys and Russell’s characters are Russian spies posing as a married American couple in the U.S., would be revealed.
“I think the last scene is [the couple’s FBI agent neighbor] Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) going, ‘Wait. They were what?’,” Rhys quipped.
Russell also prompted Rhys to reveal his other idea, which involves a connection between the couple’s teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) to one of the most famous political sex scandals of the late ’90s.
“Paige changes her name to Monica Lewinsky,” Rhys said to laughs and murmuring from the audience.
Piggy-backing off of Goodman’s theory that the couple’s other child, Henry (Keidrich Sellati), will be the one to blow their cover, possibly due to his friendship with Beeman, Rhys also joked that perhaps he and Russell’s characters would confess to Henry at the end of the series and their son would say, into a hidden microphone in his collar, “Did you get that?”
In all seriousness, Fields revealed that they were currently shooting the first two episodes in season five, which is set to air in 2017, and have written scripts for that season’s first seven episodes as well as the next two full stories and have everything sketched out for the rest of that season in great detail. He and Weisberg also said that the fifth season is a fresh start in some ways.
“We talk about this almost every day that we’ve been working on season five that there is a feeling that we’re starting over,” Weisberg said. “Not really with you guys [to Russell and Rhys] and the family, but with a lot of the operations you’ve run, that those paid off in season four, so we started building those fresh.”
Fields added that the fifth season “feels a bit different.” “We’re leaning into this longer storytelling and there is an element of that that feels so fresh and liberating,” he said. “Even characters in the same story, there are new beginnings for that.”
Later he said that the fact that they’d already mapped out all of season five allows them the freedom to rearrange the timing of certain plot points.
“Because we write so far in advance, we actually have the opportunity to be more improvisatory and that may sound bizarre,” Fields explained. “What that allows us to do is be rewriting all of that simultaneously, so if a better idea comes up for episode eight that could be set up effectively in episode two, we can go ahead and do that and make it look like we planned it.”
Indeed, Fields and Weisberg, who’ve made it clear in recent interviews that they have a sense of how the show will wrap up, reiterated that they’ve had “ideas about how [the show] would end” and started talking to FX about those. But, they were appreciative of the fact that the network would let them end the show the way they want.
Weisberg also offered a vague but detailed tease for an upcoming setting, explaining that they’re building a set indoors in Brooklyn for an outdoor action scene with Rhys and Russell’s characters, with giant styrofoam pieces that were about a third of the height of the ceiling being painted and assembled to look like something different. What that backdrop will be remains unknown but Rhys went for another political joke, quipping, “You would believe you were in the Rose Garden of the White House.”
The writers and stars also revealed the story behind a key scene in a dramatic fight between Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings and Paige in season four. Furious with Paige for not seeming to recognize the dangerous situation she created for her family, Elizabeth makes the peril they’re in clear as she orders Paige to do everything she can to prevent disaster from occurring. During the scene, in a close-up on Russell’s face, a vein can be seen popping out of her forehead, something that both Fields and Russell were glad was left in the final cut.
Rhys, who directed that episode, said that his editor and another producer, both women, suggested they digitally remove the vein from that scene but Fields insisted they not do that.
“I felt very passionately because we really, really try not to do CGI on actors’ faces and to let them look how they look,” Fields explained. “It seems like maybe not the best thing to send our daughters and other women images that aren’t real. In this case also the performance was extraordinary and deep and rich,” he added.
Ultimately Rhys was told to ask Russell what she wants to do but they decided to just drop it and leave the vein in there.
“I think we dealt with this, uncharacteristically, by never talking about it again,” Fields explained. But it turns out that Russell would’ve wanted the vein in the shot anyway.
He added, “Keri came in to do some ADR and as I recall, [to her] you said, ‘Oh, I love the vein in that scene. That looks really great.'”
“Like why wouldn’t you want? You’re mad. When you’re mad, your face gets crazy,” Russell said. “Why would I want to be a pretty version of that? ‘I want to be mad but pretty.'”
Russell and Rhys displayed an ease with one another that the real-life couple, who recently welcomed their first son, often exhibits.
Joking of the aforementioned fight scene, Rhys said, “That was a very simple scene to direct because Keri was pregnant at the time, so I just said pretend like you’re talking to me.”
And when Russell reiterated what she’s often said about how she’s most fascinated by the marital themes in the show, Rhys merely added, “I agree.”
“That’s the mark of a marriage—a successful one,” he offered as an explanation for his agreeable response.