The Americans: Discussion and Q&A Panel from NYCC 2014. The modestly-sized conference room 1A06 may not have been playing host to the latest superhero flick panel on Friday at 2014 New York Comic Con, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t contain an enthusiastic fanbase. FX’s tremendously popular series The Americans drew an impressive crowd, and for the most part the panelists did not disappoint. Creator, executive producer, and writer Joe Weisberg, executive producer and writer Joel Fields, along with stars Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, and Annet Mahendru came out to tease their fans about the upcoming third season of their show, without giving too much away.
Before the panelists were introduced, the audience was treated with an eight-minute recap video of what had happened on The Americans to this point. There was no season three footage to display, as production doesn’t begin until this upcoming Monday. When the montage ended and the lights were back on, it was time to introduce the Americans. Keri Russell, who plays Elizabeth Jennings, was announced third and was met with what was easily the loudest reaction from the audience. The cheers for Russell were so pronounced that one could barely hear the introduction for her co-star Matthew Rhys, who plays her fellow Soviet spy husband Phillip. This became ironic, as Rhys went on to be the star of the panel, while Russell seemed taciturn and hesitant to answer most questions.
The panel discussion began by bringing attention to the coordinated shirts that everyone was wearing (which you can sort of make out in the above picture). The all black shirts feature red letters that spell out “Commie Con”, with the trademark Soviet hammer and sickle as the second “C”. Rhys then explained that the shirts were his idea, and that when he was younger he actually thought people were saying “Commie Con” when referring to Comic Con.
Then the discussion turned toward what everyone was there for: “what to expect from season three of The Americans“. Unfortunately, the writers and stars have been sworn to secrecy about most everything, so there wasn’t many details to latch onto. The first real question was posed to the writers regarding how the pre-production process felt this time around and whether or not this season would focus on the perils of parenthood. Weisberg comments that he felt exhausted writing season one, and felt only “okay” when they neared production of season two, but this season they had begun thinking about way back during season two, and so they had time to write, then take a little break, let ideas percolate, and then jump back into it. Fields adds on that he feels that the show is at its strongest when Elizabeth and Phillip are struggling with realistic issues like parenthood, and reiterates at the end of the panel that this season will very much be about parenting.
Russell and Rhys were then asked what it was like to be actors playing characters that very frequently must be actors themselves, as they are Soviet spies trying to fool people with different personas. Rhys took the lead (a trend) and said that he doesn’t really consider what Phillip does to be “great acting” because he never has to go over the top. All he really has to do is convince the person in front of him that he’s someone else, and usually that requires scaling back the performance.
The discussion then turned quite comical as Noah Emmerich was asked about the consistent bad luck of his character, Stan Beeman. Emmerich jokingly lamented that when you’re an actor on a series you have to put yourself in the mindset of your character for five or six months, and when you have a character like his it can be quite depressing. Rhys then chimed in and suggested some cheerier storylines for Stan, such as him having to go deep undercover at a sorority. And perhaps he could bring Phillip with him.
Mahendru didn’t have all that much to say, and when she did speak it was in a shy manner, almost like she was nervous to speak in public. Though it is from her lips that we get the only piece of concrete information about season three: Nina (her character) is in fact still alive.
The floor was then opened for questions from the audience, the first of which was a fan asking Russell how she transformed herself from playing Felicity (her character from the long-running series of the same name) to Elizabeth. Despite the question being asked to Russell, it was Rhys that spoke up and said she plays the character the exact same way, except as Elizabeth she straightens her hair and she never smiles.
Another fan asked the writers how they research the old technology used during the time period of the series, which led to the funniest quip of the night from Weisberg: “I wish I could call it research and not memory.”
Finally, Russell and Rhys were asked if they had any favorite personas when their characters needed to be in disguise. Russell actually answered first and mentioned that she, Rhys, and the hair and makeup artists all give surprisingly in-depth backstories to each persona they put on and they have a lot of fun putting those otherwise minor characters together. Rhys then revealed that the inspiration for his “Fernando” voice was the scene in Toy Story 3 when Buzz Lightyear is switched to Spanish mode.
The new season of The Americans premieres on FX in January.
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