When The Americans returns, it will do so with marriage at the center.
The FX spy drama, which comes back with its third season on Jan. 28, will follow the relationship between KGB agents Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) when the Soviet Union readies to recruit their daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor).
“Our goal this season was to do a different kind of story, to take a married couple who are committed to one other, who want to make the marriage work, and ask the question: what happens when two people are truly respectful of their partner, yet have a conflict over the most important thing in their lives?” said executive producer and writer Joel Fields Sunday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “Everybody can relate to that — it just happens to be a little heightened with this two.”
A wedge is driven between the couple, once again, when Elizabeth entertains the idea of indoctrinating her daughter. Phillip, who values Paige’s safety more than anything, struggles to understand his wife’s unfailing allegiance to the Center. Russell, however, was hesitant on stage to say who her character would choose if it were to come down to her children or her country.
That degree of patriotism — the kind that would even suggest that loyalty to one’s country is more important than a parent’s relationship with their own kids — is a largely unfamiliar notion, and may make it difficult for viewers to feel empathy for Russell’s character. But the creators don’t think the idea is so far-fetched, noting a couple of historical examples of young people being recruited to the KGB by their parents. “Maybe there’s a different parenting style there,” Fields suggested, with creator Joe Weisberg adding: “We’re so used to in real life the kids coming first these days. It’s getting a little irritating.”
Any scenes revolving around the marriage are Russell’s favorite, and she feels that the martial challenges are what make The Americans relatable. “That’s when I love the show, when [it poses] real, vulnerable questions that are probably true to most people,” she said, adding as an example of such honest moments: “You’re not always into your spouse.”
Mere hours earlier, FX chief John Landgraf called the third installment of the period drama the best yet and acknowledged that he’d like to see the series run at least five seasons, something more awards recognition could help. “I sure would like the Emmys to step up and take notice,” he said. “I think that would be really helpful for the show.”