The FX drama series The Americans has been truly excellent throughout its run, with compelling storytelling and exceptional performances from everyone in the cast. Among many highlights, it’s shown us how good Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are, in their roles as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, KGB spies posing as Americans, it’s allowed us to watch Holly Taylor grow the teenage Paige into a compelling character, as she doubted and questioned what her parents were really up to, and it’s taken us on a roller coaster, as we’ve wondered what the ultimate outcome of the Jennings family could possibly be. The fact that it’s entering its final season is bittersweet, as it’s always sad to say goodbye to such a great TV show, but it’s also exciting to know that the creators were able to write to an ending that they chose and are saying that goodbye on their own terms.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys talked about how good it feels to end The Americans on a high note, not having had enough time to reflect yet on the series ending, the journey that Elizabeth and Philip will be on this season, and where the family dynamic is headed with Paige, and how emotional it was to read the final episode.
Collider: How does it feel to not only make six seasons of a show, but to actually be telling the story and finishing it up the way that everybody wants to finish it up?
KERI RUSSELL: Good. I feel like we’re getting out at the right time, before it gets old and everyone thinks it bad, and we think it’s bad. I’m still interested in it. I still think the storylines are true and exciting. It feels like such a win to be able to do six full seasons and get out while we’re still excited by it.
MATTHEW RHYS: I agree. I think they’re doing the right thing, in getting out in a timely manner, before wringing the towel dry. It’s true, we’re still interested in it and we hope the audience is. There’s a lot to tie up. There’s a lot to do, in the final 10 episodes.
Throughout its run, it’s been and stayed one of best dramas on TV, with such strong writing. Your showrunners, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, have said that this final season is very emotional for them, but does the final season feel anything like you thought it would?
RUSSELL: I don’t know.
RHYS: Yes and no.
RUSSELL: We shoot a lot outside, in the dead of winter, and it’s such an uphill sprint, every year, anyway. I’m still head down, charging up that hill. So, reading those last scripts, of Episodes 8, 9 and 10 were definitely emotional, but I don’t have enough time to reflect yet. I think we will, two months after. There’s still so much work to be done that you kind of can’t sit back and see it yet. And the truth is that Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields] have done their work. They’ve written it, so they’re reflecting now, but we’re still in the middle of it.
What was it like to read the last episode and see where the characters ended up?
RHYS: It was very emotional. I got very emotional. It has been a long journey, and a big one, as well. For these characters, from where we found them to where we leave them, it’s been huge. So, yeah, I got very teary, at the end.
RUSSELL: I just feel like they pitched it in the perfect tone, which is hard to do. Being a fan of reading the show – because we can’t really claim to watch the show ‘cause we don’t – we love to read it. I just feel like they got the tone right. I hope for everyone who watches it, it will be satisfying. It was really satisfying for me, being a part of it, to read the ending. I think they pitched it right.
I love the moment, last season, when your characters finally actually married each other, which was so beautiful. Joe and Joel told me that they’ve been trying to do that since Season 1, but it just never worked. Were you hoping to get to a moment like that for them?
RHYS: No, I wasn’t. That was such a surprise and a left field moment. I went, “Wow!” I thought it was great. I think it was good that they waited that long because it was earned then. It was far more earned than it would have been in Season 1. It was sweet and poignant and sad, in a way. It was a number of things, as the show always is.
Even just hearing their real names gave me chills.
What can you say about their journey, in this last season, as a family and as a couple?
RUSSELL: What I like about the start of the season, which I think Joe and Joel have done very well through so many of the seasons, is really track a long-term marriage. We start the season, like many long-term relationships, in that moment where you’re so far from each other. You go through moments of incredible intimacy and electricity, and then you go through moments where you’re just so far that you’re living separate lives. They’re just really lonely and far apart when we start Season 6. You have to figure out if they can find their way back because they’re really not connecting and they’re just in different worlds, like people get. That’s where it’s at. I think Elizabeth is incredibly alone and alienated because she’s doing all this work, and the stress is getting worse and worse. Imagining Philip in this other world just continues to fracture the relationship and the family.
RHYS: I’d agree. I can’t put that any better. I love the echo of Episode 1 in Season 1, where you meet these two people, who are at great distance from each other. And then, you go through this huge five-season journey with them, where you see them get close, grow apart, get close, grow apart. And then, we start the final season poles apart and you go, “Oh, god, how will they get back?” It’s really indicative of a long-term relationship. They write so strongly to that.
As your own lives blurred the personal and professional, in making the show, did you learn a new appreciation, in getting to watch each other and really seeing what you guys did, or are you so in it that it’s hard to really step out of it, in that way?
RUSSELL: I definitely have an appreciation for his work. When you’re doing a scene together, and you’re in a good working relationship, it feels like you’re playing tennis with someone that’s really compatible to you. You just have that, with certain people. When we are in a good space, that works. You don’t have to think about it. It’s just fun and exciting.
RHYS: Yeah, that’s true.
RUSSELL: There’s certain chemistry that just doesn’t work, but this is an easy one and it’s enjoyable. When we have a really good, big scene, it’s good. It’s fun.
It also seems like, as you get to know each other better, you can call each other on your bullshit when it doesn’t feel true.
RUSSELL: Yeah, or if someone’s in a bad mood, you know it. You’re like, “What the fuck is up with you?!”
RHYS: Yeah, and it informs scenes sometimes. You wouldn’t be human if you could just flip a switch that easily, coming in from some blazing argument.
RUSSELL: Yeah, in which the crew is like, “Uh oh!”
What can you say about the relationship between Elizabeth and Paige, this season?
RUSSELL: There are a few things that inform it. This lonely, isolated place that Elizabeth is in, in her work, being without her partner and confidant and best friend, the need to bring Paige in is greater, for good or for bad, in the way a lonely parent does sometimes. I also think as soon as she gets involved in this Mexico thing and has that cyanide capsule, that instantly creates a ticking bomb for her. Every time I had a scene with Paige, it felt like there was such an urgency to tell her everything that I needed to tell her, in case I wasn’t gonna be there to keep her safe, or to let her know what she needs to know because I was afraid that Philip wouldn’t do it. And I think there’s an incredible need, from Paige’s perspective, to have these parents who have been so elusive for so many years, suddenly reveal who they are. It may be a misguided want, on her part, to be a part of all of this. It’s a complicated issue, whether or not she should be in this business. That’s up in the air. I think there’s a need, familiarly, from both parties, to be together, and this is the just the way they’re coming together.
The family dynamic on this show has always been so compelling.
RUSSELL: And I feel like it’s really relatable. None of us are spies, but the issues are very relatable.
The Americans airs on Wednesday nights on FX.