Were you surprised by how big of a deal the wigs became? And is there any way in which you think you ought to dial it back next year, because people are spending too much time looking at and talking about the wigs? Or is it just a necessary piece of spycraft?

Joel Fields: We're just so busy making sure the audience didn’t become obsessed with the ‘80s jeans that we missed the wigs!

Joe Weisberg: I think it was a little bit of a surprise. I don't think we knew necessarily at the beginning that we'd be using disguise this much. I We knew we could use it, but it became used more, and there was more of a reaction. I think we're entertaining all possibilities. We may pull it back. Or we may do what some people suggested where we have scenes where he puts the Clark wigs on and you see exactly why it stays on. There are a lot of ways to go. I’m not sure what the answer is.
One of the challenges, for as long as Stan is going to be a character on the show and not realize who his neighbors are, is to make both sides seem credible and smart and good at what they do without making it seem ridiculous that he hasn’t figured out who the Jenningses are by now. How do you deal with that?

Joe Weisberg: I think it's in a way, that's within our control. We can dole out the information to Stan that really points to Philip and Elizabeth at our discretion. When we dole out pieces that start to point to them, then Stan has to get onto them or he doesn't look so smart. And when the story requires those to be doled out, I'm not so sure. The thing that’s really compelling to me and interesting and rich and exciting for the story, is the relationship between Philip and Stan. That's what I'm looking forward to exploring and telling stories about. And that has this cross current of the underlying danger, but that's not the only cross-current. There's also a cross-current of Philip potentially defecting to this guy, or trying to recruit this guy. I think there's a lot of fertile ground before you have to get to Stan necessarily being able to arrest this guy.

Joel Fields: And as a practical matter, one thing we've talked about is this season is very focused on Stan and Gaad's desire to get the illegals. FBI counter-intelligence did other things. It may be that Stan is going to have some successes in other areas of counter-intelligence as well.

We’ve seen flashbacks to Philip and Elizabeth’s life in the Soviet Union. Will we be getting the same for Stan’s undercover assignment with the white supremacists? Or is that something that just has to live in our imaginations. 

Joel Fields: Fair to say we hope to at some point. Whether we see it or it comes back in some other form, present-day, we're not sure. We actually broke an entire story this season that we wound up setting aside that went to that. It felt a little too soon to us ultimately. But it’s an exciting story to us. I think it's something that we want to explore, whether through flashback or rearing its head today. It’s clearly something that forged him, and he’s not done with it.

What stage were you at when Sandy hit, and how much did that affect both the logistics of production and even the writing of the remaining episodes?

Joel Fields: We were a week before shooting when Sandy hit. In a way, it was the very worst time. Had we actually been in production, it might have been easier, because we would have just shut down and wouldn't have been able to start up again until we could start up again. But prep before production is a little more amorphous and harder to quantify. There we were after Sandy, and our production offices had been decimated. There was water up to the desktops, and we were out of those production offices and moved into temporary production offices in Queens until maybe February. So for a while, we were writing the show in Soho, posting it in Soho, shooting it in Brooklyn and had production offices in Queens. If you’ve ever tried at mid-day to get between those three places, you can imagine how fun it was. And then our sets, also, took a pretty big hit, and a lot had to be reconstructed. There we were in the midst of all of that, trying to figure out scheduling, trying to protect our airdates. With prep, a lot of it's amorphous, so you're going on location scouts, and the question becomes do you really put everyone in a van when it's not even known if the roads are passable, and it's doubtful whether anyone will let you in when you get there. You don’t know that you’re going to have gas to get you back, because police have yellow tape around gas stations and are handing out gas in cans to people in a line. You're trying to cast the show in a world where lower Manhattan just didn't exist, you couldn't get people on the phone, let alone to come in to audition. It was a tough few weeks of figuring it out.
That was a really dark time for the entire region. It’s a grim show to begin with, but tonally, did that wind up affecting what you were writing at all? Or was it purely about the practicalities?

Joe Weisberg: People point out that the pilot had a little more humor than the series. Maybe that's where it went.

Joel Fields: That’s a question for our sub-conscious. But at the time that the storm hit, we had six scripts written already. They didn't radically change. They didn't get more grim. And the other thing that's hard to notice from the outside, but from the punch of Sandy, none of our airdates changed; we wound up taking the one-week hiatus between episode 8 and 9, so we gained a week that enabled us to deliver those last episodes, and there's normally more time to do post. So we lost all of our evenings and weekends and some of the time we might do other stuff, such as sleeping. It disappeared into the vortex of getting the show finished.

The music is such a big part of the show, and you’ve gone a great job of picking songs that are familiar from the period without being K-tel’s Top Hits of 1981. How do you go about picking the songs that feel right, and in certain cases incorporating them into the action, like “Tusk” in the pilot or “Rough Boys” a couple of weeks ago?

Joel Fields: Before I answer that, I want to say we're so thrilled by our composer Nathan Barr, who does all of this phenomenal acoustic stuff and somehow manages to capture for us, anyway, both a deep American soul and a deep Russian soul, and there are times when we find ourselves crying in the editing room. We also have a fantastic music supervisor, P.J. Bloom, who provides us with great selections to choose from. He has such a depth of knowledge. We did say to him, "We don't want to do the top 40 hits of the period." Both Joe and I grew up during that time, and we want those things we remember, but that pull us back — that feel like nostalgia in the right way. And there were also times where we sat down and listened to a dozen songs, and different people pitched until we found the one that felt right. Sometimes, it was the first one and you just knew, and other times, you listened and listened and then we had to come in tomorrow and listen some more.
You have Richard Thomas in a prominent role as Agent Gaad, and Richard Kline has been in the last few episodes as Martha’s dad. They’re both actors who were prominent in the period, albeit more in the ‘70s than the early ‘80s. Was this a kind of deliberate nod to the era?  

Joe Weisberg: Richard Kline may have been a little deliberate.

Joel Fields: We can't deny that one. But as for Richard Thomas, totally different. He's been a friend of mine for many years. I've done a movie with him many years ago, and then he ran a couple of plays of mine at different readings, and I’ve seen him in many plays. I just came to know him as the incredible theater actor he's become. He's just a brilliant actor in the pool of New York actors; he’s a heavy hitter. When I found out that I was going to be doing the show, I emailed him to say I’d be working in New York and we should hang out. Then the next email was, "Who am I kidding? I'm not going to be able to hang out, ever, until we wrap." And then the next one was, “How would you like to take a look at something?”
Joe Weisberg: If you know some of these guys from the FBI or CIA, there's a substantial majority of them who do not conform to the stereotypes — who don't look like the square-jawed, super-macho guys. Not that those guys don’t exist there, too, but the majority aren’t. So when you get a guy like Richard Thomas, or even Noah (Emmerich) to a certain degree, or Max Hernandez, you start filling out your FBI so it looks more like the FBI. It looks and feels more real, doesn’t conform to a stereotype, and that's one of the things I love about him as Agent Gaad. Whether people are processing it that way consciously or not, I just think he feels like a real Special Agent in Charge.  

Joel Fields: As a character, he's got this fun quality. He's an asymmetrical thinker, he keeps people off balance with the humor.
Do you even know when next season is going to be set yet, and if you do, are you comfortable in saying?

Joel Fields: I don't know if it requires us to do anything, but we're strongly inclined to pick up shortly after the finale so we can see how this story picks up. We left off at a critical juncture where she was shot and left in the safe house. It’s clear she’s going to live and be okay, but I think that story would feel odd if you picked up much later. I think we’re going to return in that same timeframe.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "TV (The Book)" about the 100 greatest shows of all time, is available now. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com