Season three of The Americans picks up where they left off, with Elizabeth obtaining a list of names from a mole. When she’s intercepted, a fight breaks out which is one of The Americans’ biggest action scenes to date, spilling into the street and into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. In the season premiere we also meet Frank Langella’s new character, an old friend of Elizabeth’s. This will spark a rift between Elizabeth and Phillip over whether to tell their older daughter Paige what they really do for the KGB.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Keri Russell before The Americans panel for the Television Critics Association to talk about the new season, which premieres January 29, 2015 on FX.
Keri Russell Interview:
There’s a very impressive fight at the beginning of the season premiere.
Keri Russell: “Oh, I haven’t seen it yet.”
Does that wig make it easier for you to trade off with the stunt double?
Keri Russell: “Yes, but one little tidbit about fights. The more hair, the better, because it sells a punch and a hit. I’m always like, ‘You’ve got to have long hair. Long hair covers a lot in a stunt fight.’ We have a really great stunt coordinator and stunt team and I love that stuff. It’s also just one of the perks of this job. What a weird, quirky, funny little job that you get to do great relationship stuff with real actors. Matthew [Rhys] and Noah [Emmerich], they’re legit. To get to do scenes with those guys is so fun and then get to do crazy fight stuff and gun work and killing people and weird sexual [things], it’s such a fun surprise of a show.”
How much of that motorcycle fight did you get to do?
Keri Russell: “All of it. All of it.”
I assume you didn’t get hit with a motorcycle.
Keri Russell: “No, Mickey did that. Mickey, who’s rad and actually grew up in Colorado not far from where I grew up, she did part of that, and the guy really got hit by it. My son, my seven-year-old, came out to watch that part and he loved it. Loved it.”
Is this season really all about the kids?
Keri Russell: W”ell, it’s always about the main things that it is about, about relationships and trust and vulnerability, but I think this season does focus a lot on parenting and what you want to impart on your kids. I think the personal moment is really about what do you want them to know about you? And I feel like it’s a really relatable thing. I think if a parent had this huge secret, or life, you’d want them to know that about you. I think it’s less for Elizabeth about recruiting Paige and more just about her true life being seeing and for Paige to know who she really is, versus this, in her mind, farcical Christian camp that is just ridiculous to her. She’s like, if someone’s going to indoctrinate her, it’s not going to be them. Let it be us, who we really are. I think that’s a really relatable moment.”
Does Phillip want to shield them from this?
Keri Russell: “Absolutely. Yes, I think this season is very much about Phillip and Elizabeth’s huge divide and constant friction about Paige. I think Phillip is solely based on protection and I think Elizabeth is like, ‘It’s happening. Paige is going away anyway, so why not tell her who we really are?’ And I think in a way that relationships are so personal, especially raising kids is so personal, I think she feels that every time he rejects that idea of telling Paige, he’s rejecting everything Elizabeth is. So it just gets really personal.”
Because their children are different ages, does that complicate things too?
Keri Russell: “Yeah, because then what if one knows? This season gets real. At the end, it gets real so I don’t know what they’re going to do. I’ve read to episode nine and we have 13 so I don’t know who but Paige, it gets real.”
So I’m asking the right questions?
Keri Russell: “Yes.”
Does the introduction of Frank Langella’s character tell you a lot more about Elizabeth’s past?
Keri Russell: “Yes, it introduces most significantly her relationship with her mother which absolutely is a driving catalyst to informing and revealing to Paige. I think people’s relationship with their parents, especially if it’s complicated and not open and trusting and lovely, takes up a lot of space. Especially if it’s unfinished and if you imagine that these are people who didn’t see their parents after 17, they become very loud and large in your life, in your mind. I think the fact that the mother is ill and mortality and what you want to pass on from your parents is really fueling Elizabeth’s need to tell Paige and make things right and make things important. So Frank brings in the other aspect and I’m just seeing inklings, inklings which I love, I love the moments I’m seeing at the very end of this season of Elizabeth’s moments of her pushback, like, ‘This is Phillip and me. That’s you.’ I like those because it feels more human in a way.”
Last season, when Elizabeth was working the Russian soldier, it seemed she felt really bad for having to betray him. Do you think she sincerely felt bad for him?
Keri Russell: “Yeah, that was so good. I love the writing on that. What I love about when they write like that, and I’m sure it must be true, is when she’s luring him in sort of, but she’s also speaking truths about herself which you can do with strangers. He doesn’t know her from anyone. He’s not going to tell anybody. She has nothing to lose so she can reveal these incredible intimate, vulnerable moments about herself and be that with him that she’s not for anyone else. And yeah, I do think she felt bad. There was an innocence about him that she didn’t have. At 17 she was doing other stuff. And I think in a way that we all have, when you see really attractive sweet 17-year-olds and you go, ‘Oh, to start over. That would be nice.'”
– Also of interest: Matthew Rhys on season 3, disguises, and motivations
– By Fred Topel
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