From its first season to its second, FX’s “The Americans” went from being a very good drama to one of the very best things on television, a show I ultimately ranked #2 overall for 2014. I’ve seen the first four episodes of the third season, which debuts tomorrow night at 10, and while there hasn’t been a comparable huge leap in quality, the show also hasn’t backslid at all. The start of the new season feels very much of a piece with season 2, pushing forward the storyline about Philip and Elizabeth being ordered by the KGB to recruit their daughter Paige to be an asset, and finding creative new ways to portray the brutality of the spy trade in the early ‘80s. (There’s a scene early in next week’s second episode that you may need to “watch” from behind the couch.)
On an unseasonably warm day early last month, I paid a visit to the Brooklyn soundstages that play home to the show, where controlled chaos was the order of the day. They were simultaneously filming scenes from four different episodes; when I spoke with Matthew Rhys, he wondered if they were perhaps setting a record for cable drama production. Over the course of the day, I got to interview Rhys, Keri Russell, Holly Taylor, the show’s hair and makeup people, and showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. Look for the Taylor interview tomorrow and Rhys, Russell and the hair and makeup people in later weeks, as some of what we discussed involves spoilers for upcoming episodes.
I had a good stretch of time to speak with Weisberg and Fields about the logistics of production — including how the first two seasons were impacted by, respectively, Hurricane Sandy and the polar vortex(*) — how they try to incorporate real events (and real TV footage) from the period into the show, why they’re yet another cable family drama where the teen daughter has a lot to do and the teen son doesn’t, early thoughts on the series' endgame, and a lot more.
(*) While the show had to that point dealt with a mild winter, it feels appropriate that this interview is publishing on the morning of Snowmageddon 2015, which forced the cancellation of last night's red carpet season 3 premiere, and at least temporarily shut down production... again. Ah well; as Weisberg and Fields note below, it'll probably lead to some gorgeous footage.