'The Americans' Cast and Creators Discuss Rooting for The KGB, Spy Lessons and More
'The Americans' Cast and Creators Discuss Rooting for The KGB, Spy Lessons and More
Michelle Carlbert
Michelle Carlbert
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
The Americans is a new show from FX that premieres on January 30, 2013. The cast, including Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, as well as creator Joe Weisberg, and executive producers Joel Field and Graham Yost spoke at TCA 2013 about what we can expect in the show's first season.

Here are a few more things we learned in the panel:

The creator of the show was actually a spy and he gave the actors spy lessons. Asked about his stint with the CIA and how it influenced the show, Weisberg said, "I was [in the CIA] from '90 to '94.  And I think there are two things that have sort of informed the show.  One is a little bit just the tradecraft.  I spent six months down at the farm learning tradecraft.  In fact, I took these guys (indicates the actors) out on the street and gave them a little bit of very rudimentary tradecraft surveillance and countersurveillance. It probably sounds a little better than it is. Mostly it's sort of 'look this way, look this way, and try to do it without looking too sneaky.'"

They want you to root for the KGB. Because the show is about Russian spies, the question was asked if fans were supposed to root for the couple to defect or for them to stick with the KGB. Joe Weisberg replied, "I think we would all very much like both for Philip and Elizabeth to have a happy, healthy marriage that goes on for a long time.  From the start, it's going to have a lot of ups and downs like most of the marriages that we're all familiar with.  And then in the Cold War, although it might be a little bit difficult to believe and get used to, we want you to root for the KGB."

But they want you to root for the FBI, too. Responded to the same question, Joel Fields added, "There's an FBI side of the story that's told that when you're with them, the hope is you'll root for them too."

Keri Russell got to kick a guy in the head. When asked about what kind of action she had to do on screen while playing a spy, Russell said, "They created this kick. It was terrible to do.  The guy who I actually kicked in the head actually looked at me and said, "Listen, do it, and do it right because, if you mess it up, we're going to have to do it again, and then I'm going to be pissed."

The show is ultimately about family. Weisberg spoke about what it's like for spies with families, saying, "I think that one of the things I saw at the CIA that affected me emotionally was how CIA officers and their families live this clandestine life.  I almost never got over how the parents, whether it's the father or the mother or both who are CIA officers and live undercover, can't tell their kids what they do. So what actually happens is the parents keep it a secret from the kids until the kids reach either an age or a level of maturity where the parents feel that the kid can be trusted to keep it a secret.  And every CIA family has this.  They have the big day when they sit down with the kid.  It's like a family meeting and they tell the kid, listen, we've kept this from you your whole life, but we need you to know now that we actually work for the CIA."

The show might be about Soviets, but should be watched through American eyes. The show is about Soviets, but should be watched through American eyes. When asked about the wife in the story being more devoted to the KGB, Weisberg replied, "We thought a lot about who was going to be the more stalwart, tried and true KGB patriot.  I think it's worth remembering that we always thought of it like you're Americans behind enemy lines in the Soviet Union, that this is an admirable quality.  [She] is the American who is never going to waiver from supporting America, no matter what kind of pressure is on [her]. This is a great quality in Elizabeth in so many ways.  And we ran it back and forth with "Should it be the husband, should it be the wife?"  And something about it seemed a little kind of fresher and more powerful if it was Elizabeth."

The show is also about competing value systems. Joel Fields talked about another theme of the show, saying, "It's easy to talk about rooting for the Soviets or rooting for the Americans in terms of that big sense of two countries who are out to destroy each other at the time, but there really were these two very competing value systems. There's no question that repressive socialism failed in the Soviet Union, but unbridled consumption hasn't necessarily led to great satisfaction on the part of hordes and hordes of people. Part of what we've been struggling with is how do we express that dramatically through these characters?"

Real-life events will play into the show at different times. The show is set in the early 80's and Weisberg spoke about how events of the time will play into the series, saying, "The assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan took place just 60 days after he was inaugurated, so we've got that to deal with and that's going to be a big event in their lives."

What do you think of these tidbits we've learned from the cast and creators of The Americans? Will you be checking out the show when it premieres? Who will you root for, the KGB or the CIA?

The Americans premieres on Wednesday, January 30 at 10pm on FX. 

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(Image courtesy of FX)