Talking about The Americans is fun with anybody, but I got to talk about it with Keri Russell herself. Russell was scheduled to be on the Television Critics Association panel for The Americans season three, and thanks to some good connections with FX and Russell’s reps, we got to speak with her one on one.
The season premiere of The Americans, which you’ll see on January 29 on FX, introduces some backstory about Elizabeth (Russell)’s childhood. Flashbacks of her mother seem to haunt her. Meanwhile, Phillip (Matthew Rhys) is off having Kama Sutra sex with Martha, undercover as Clark. Russell and I had fun analyzing The Americans with her asking me almost as many questions as I asked her.
Nuke the Fridge: Do you remember going into the third season of Felicity?
Keri Russell: Oh my God. What would be happening in the third season? I’m sure I had short hair. Maybe middle length hair. I don’t remember. We did four. I think the third season was the one we did like a half season.
Nuke: Do you remember how that felt compared to how going into the third season of The Americans feels?
Keri Russell: Listen, I have huge affection for that show, especially those two guys I was working with, for Matt and J.J. And I still see them all the tie.
Nuke: You still work for them all the time.
Keri Russell: All the time, willingly. J.J. was just e-mailing me recently because he’s getting some award and he’s like, “Can you come give me this award?” And I was like, “Yes!” And he’s like, “No, wait. You’re not in L.A. Don’t even think about coming out.” I was like, “Yes, I want to.” They’re just both such good guys but huge affection for that show. This show, I guess in the way that you just get older and life gets more complex and interesting, I feel like this show is just such a fun, interesting surprise. I love it. It’s so interesting. It’s such a rare job to get to do all this stuff.
Nuke: Did you end up doing that award for J.J.?
Keri Russell: I didn’t because it’s while I’m shooting and I was going to try to work it out and he found out that I was going to try to fly and he said, “No way.”
Nuke: That’s his producer hat.
Keri Russell: He’s like, “You are not flying out. No way.”
Nuke: Did you not see the flashbacks to her childhood until after they shot them?
Keri Russell: Yeah, I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen anything. I read them. How are they?
Nuke: It’s just starting with hints so it’s intriguing. Was the scene in the bathtub where you’re remembering it an intense scene to do?
Keri Russell: Oh yeah, and then the swimming pool, is the swimming pool still in it?
Nuke: Yes, you remember it when you’re in the bathtub.
Keri Russell: Crazy, right? What was your reaction to that?
Nuke: I know in the past, the idea was if you want to teach someone to swim, throw them in the water. So that’s old school thinking.
Keri Russell: So it’s real old school, but you didn’t go, “She’s a f***ing barbarian?”
Nuke: Not yet. I can see where it’s part of the larger tapestry.
Keri Russell: It is, and when I read these things, I’m like, “Oh my God. Guys, can we really [do this?] Is this going to send her too far? Are we going too far?” We really have these lengthy discussions and debates about it. Ultimately, it’s fun. It’s really good. I like that.
Nuke: When you did your side of that in the bathtub, were you just thinking of what you read in the script? How did you perform that?
Keri Russell: I thought about what I’d read in the script but I also, to me, in the way that this show at its best working for me personally as a fan, it’s just about the human elements. For me, all those things are just very relatable about parenting. I was thinking about the ways I’ve misstepped as a parent. Like, “Ugh, I want to be better. Oh, f***, I did that.” But you want to do this and I think that’s what was going through her head. She’s, like, dreaming about it and it’s really in her subconscious, and I think she’s not 100% about what she wants. She just can’t deny this thing that’s bubbling up and she’s trying to suppress it for Phillip’s sake but I don’t think she’s going to be able to.
Nuke: Is Elizabeth aware of the extent of sex Phillip is having with Martha?
Keri Russell: Thank you. For the love of God, thank you. It’s interesting and I love the moments, I try to fit them in, when Elizabeth shows it. Every time he mentions seeing Martha, I love those moments when she’s feeling it because it just means she’s more human. I loev that.
Nuke: I love the Clark and Martha relationship too, and I think if it weren’t for the fact that it’s fake, they’d be so good together.
Keri Russell: And I think that’s part of the good about it, right? It’s complicated.
Nuke: You were a dancer. Were you familiar with Russian ballet of the era The Americans takes place in?
Keri Russell: That’s a really good [comparison]. I was an everything dancer. It wasn’t exclusively ballet, so if it was, I probably would know more about that. I don’t really, but I should. Baryshnikov. I saw him walking down the street in Brooklyn and I was like, “That was Baryshnikov.” He’s so good.
Nuke: It’s funny people know him from Sex and the City now.
Keri Russell: I know, that’s ridiculous.