Can ‘The Americans’ Sustain the Secrets and Lies in Season 4? Stars Weigh In
Home is the overriding theme of The Americans’ fourth season. But just where or what home is can be tricky when the family at the heart of FX’s Cold War thriller is led by two KGB spies, Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell), passing as the ultimate all-American family, along with their two teens: the ever-curious, now fully briefed Paige (Holly Taylor) and oft-neglected Henry (Keidrich Sellati).
“From the beginning, we’ve thought of The Americans as an immigrant story,” creator Joe Weisberg says. “This is the season where those immigrant parents start really thinking about the old country, and that impacts their parenting and their marriage.” Explains executive producer Joel Fields: “It’s Philip and Elizabeth against Paige. It’s Elizabeth and Paige against Philip. And it’s also Philip and Paige against Elizabeth. Family is a complicated sport.”
Here, stars Rhys, Russell and Taylor discuss whether blood (Russian or otherwise) really is thicker than water.
Was Elizabeth arrogant or foolish when she finally told Paige the truth? Did she consider her daughter might not choose her Marxist ideology?
Matthew Rhys: She was absolutely both. Lying to your child so profoundly for so long has taken a toll, but Elizabeth was thinking that Paige would take up the cause of the motherland and there wouldn’t be Herculean repercussions—as there have been.
Keri Russell: I feel the more human way of looking at it is that there was a huge barrier between Paige and her parents because of their façade, and Paige was ready to know who they really were. Elizabeth isn’t going to immediately start having Paige do one-arm push-ups and make fake IDs! It’s about wanting her to know what her parents believe in and care about. Yes, naively, she thinks Paige will find in that an honorable cause.
Holly Taylor: I think Elizabeth was hoping that Paige would understand her passion about helping the Russian people because of her activism with the church.
Was Elizabeth right or wrong about that hope?
Taylor: Wrong. Because Paige can’t lie. She couldn’t even keep their secret!
How much harder for Philip and Elizabeth is it now that Paige knows her parents are Soviet spies? Paige revealed as much to her mentor, Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin). That won’t stay a secret long!
Rhys: Philip’s duties will be tenfold as he tries to figure out the best way to keep his daughter safe.
Will there be a struggle between Elizabeth and Philip for the soul of their daughter?
Rhys: Absolutely. You just know that kind of showdown is coming, and there will be fireworks.
And Philip and Elizabeth have to keep Pastor Tim from sharing Paige’s information with the FBI.
Rhys: This season is all about that and the reaction to it.
Russell: It’s massive pressure now that the pastor knows. The family is a phone call away from everything being pulled out from under them. Philip and Elizabeth could go to prison for the rest of their lives and their kids would grow up without them.
Then there are their KGB bosses. What if they think Paige is a loose cannon?
Rhys: That’s another great element of the season. They do have an ally in their handler Gabriel [Frank Langella]. He tries to work out what the best thing to do in this nightmare is.
How do they shut Pastor Tim down without destroying Paige?
Russell: There are huge discussions about this: “Do we kill him?” “We can’t! Paige would hate us forever.” “Do we trust him? Who has he told?” It’s unbelievable.
Rhys: It’s a very prolonged chess game where everyone is trying to guess what the next person will do. If they do something adverse to Pastor Tim, they lose Paige completely. But they have to maintain the safety of their identity.
Is Paige aware of what her parents could do to him?
Taylor: She realizes in the moment she told him that it puts her family, him and even herself in danger. That guilt might motivate some of her action in the future. [Laughs] I’m not sure she could forgive them if they hurt or killed her pastor, but it would depend on the situation—as horrible as that sounds.
Russell: There are definitely steps that Paige has been taking on her own that have been shocking; the natural sequence of events that have been born from telling the truth.
Now their son, Henry, has been hanging out with FBI agent neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich). What does this say about their parenting?
Rhys: The irony with Philip is that he’s trying so hard to protect his children that at times he forgets his children. Because Henry is kind of fatherless, he looks to Stan, the next best thing. That creates damage on many levels, including personally for Philip. Because Stan is in counterintelligence, the [stakes] are enormous.
Taylor: Paige loves her parents, but she felt abandoned and in the dark a lot of the time. We’ve seen her making Henry dinner because her parents are working.
Since both kids innocently make moves that endanger their family, is this a particularly tense and emotionally fraught season in a series already full of that?
Rhys: It really is. We’ve brought the drama to the home front, which is infinitely more relatable to an audience. We’re moving away from violence, which is great.
Russell: Rather than car chases, it’s really about human dynamics and pressure and emotional costs.
Taylor: It’s difficult to separate all the emotional stuff from my own real life and go to school the next day and forget about it.
What’s the dynamic on set? Are Keri and Matthew surrogate parents or more like buddies?
Rhys: We’re more like surrogate parents. To be honest, though, with Keidrich, I edge into the older sibling as we make fart jokes. But fathers and sons do that, so both are intertwined. [Laughs]
Taylor: I love the dynamic with Keri and Matthew. They’re like parents who always look out for us. But they both love to joke around. And Keidrich and I are like a real brother and sister. We’ve grown up together. It’s very fun on set—even when we’re all sobbing in a scene!
The Americans, Season premiere, Wednesday, March 16, 10/9c, FX