Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys
After spending years in a foreign country pretending to be married in order to infiltrate the United States, only now have The American's dynamic duo Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) come to realize what they really mean to each other.
Fortunately, Elizabeth does survive her run-in with the FBI in the Season 1 finale, and the super spies will explore what it's really like to be married and actually love each other in Season 2. But they'll have other problems to contend with this year as the children become more aware of the often strange lives their parents lead.
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And let's not forget that they're still spies, so there's that little issue of the Cold War reaching a boiling point. How will they deal? To get the scoop, TVGuide.com sat down with executive producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, who also tease trouble in the rezidentura with the arrival of one of the Soviet Union's upper elite, Nina's (Annet Mahendru) precarious new position with Stan (Noah Emmerich) and the possibility that Elizabeth and Phillip's secret lives may not stay secret for much longer:
Where is the show picking up not just for the Jennings, but also historically?
Joe Weisberg: It's a couple months later. The good news, probably predictably, is that Elizabeth is alive. We're very happy to report that. Historically, we're at the beginning of 1982, so we're still really pretty much at the beginning of the Reagan era and the seething hot anger of his ramping up of the Cold War and all the tension and excitement of that point in the Cold War.
Joel Fields: Which is being fought on many fronts. It's being fought behind enemy lines by spies, on the ground in Afghanistan, on the ground in Central America and it's being fought covertly by scientists who are building weaponry. We're doing a Nicaragua storyline and we're going to explore what happened down there through Phillip and Elizabeth up here. We'll have a storyline where they work with a Central American operative.
If the first season was breaking down the faux marriage, what is the second season about?
Weisberg: I would say the second season is about coming back to the family. At the end of Season 1, Elizabeth said to come home. Not surprisingly, he's coming home. That indicates accurately that the marriage is going to be a little more stable, but that doesn't mean the kids are going to be. When you're married and have kids, that's always trouble. There's going to be a focus on the family and trying to pull this family together just as their daughter is starting to wonder.
How long before Elizabeth and Phillip realize what their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) is doing?
Weisberg: They kind of get their inkling [in the season premiere]. They don't know how long she's been wondering.
Fields: Of course, she's not thinking, "My parents are spies," but she's thinking this is weird, which every kid thinks at some point. The question is: What is she going to find as she explores the truth of her family?
What's the status of Elizabeth and Phillip's relationship this season?
Fields: They're ready to be married after all these years. What they're going to discover is that having been fake married for a long time, if they're ready to be real married, real married is not a magical, easy thing. It takes work. There are challenges, there are conflicts, and, when you have two kids, there is family to contend with and that's challenging, too. Add to that the fact that their work is life and death and the future of mankind hands in the balance with two super powers that have their finger on the nuclear trigger, there's a little bit of pressure for them.
How long can Phillip go on being married to Martha (Alison Wright)?
Fields: The truth is, in the real cases, these fake marriages that the KGB Illegals ran went on indefinitely. Who knows? Maybe those crazy kids have a chance!
Weisberg: Some of those relationships lasted like a decade. Maybe he'll be a great husband.
What's in store for Phillip and Elizabeth when it comes to work?
Weisberg: We talk all the time about their cover. The whole point of the Illegals Program for the KGB — I'm going to talk about reality for a moment — was the cover of the operatives. The actual Illegals had a cover built for them that was the most airtight cover that any spies in history ever had. Nobody would've ever suspected these people who came here and lived here as Americans. They could spy without any fear that the FBI or anybody else would get onto them. They could operate freely. You felt secure unless an operation you were on was blown.
Fields: Hence all the disguises.
Weisberg: Now, suddenly, if your compatriots are blown, all of that flies into question because if somebody found them out, all your assumptions are blown to hell. They could be compromised.
Fields: That's a running theme, but not a singular story. Part of the challenge of the season is: What can they really do about that? Either fold up their tent and go home, but where is home now that they've been there all these years and have two kids? Or just soldier on.
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Will Phillip still have doubts about his place in the KGB and questioning whether they should turn to the Americans?
Weisberg: For now, I think they've moved on from that.
Fields: But that's always a possibility for spies.
Talk about the consequences of Nina now spying on Agent Beeman for the KGB.
Fields: The consequences if she were discovered by Stan, I imagine he'd be more upset with her than he was with Vlad (Vitaly Benko), and that didn't go that well.
Weisberg: He wasn't even that mad at Vlad. [Laughs]
Fields: Let me put it this way, I'm not sure he'd give her a hamburger and offer her a coke. So the stakes are very, very high for her. We talk about Nina as a character who has always been walking a high wire. Let's not forget that she's committed treason and she's still digging herself out of a hole with the KGB, but they could decide at any point to persecute her for what she's done. That's not over. It's kind of amazing that at any given moment she's still there at all. She's really a survivor.
Weisberg: Stan thinks he's running her, and there's a real history of Intelligence officers falling in love with their assets. I can't imagine it ever really ends well.
In Season 1, Stan had a gut feeling about the Jennings. There's only so long you can live across the street from an FBI agent before some new suspicions come up.
Fields: We'll see. Stan really has his own problems to deal with this season. Part of what we've been enjoying exploring that, for Phillip and Elizabeth — set aside Stan realizing what's going on — he's a potential asset if they work him carefully. After all, we saw last season that he helped them stop a world war inadvertently. What you have is a situation where Phillip especially is developing a relationship with him and a friendship with him. There's something genuine about it, but it also has this subtext.
Can you talk about some of the new characters we'll be seeing in the rezidentura this season?
Fields: We have a wonderful character Oleg, played by Costa Ronin. Oleg represents something new and important.
Weisberg: Oleg has come over and he comes from the upper class of Soviet Society. Soviet Society prided itself, theoretically, on being a classless society, but it was as class-ridden as any other society, it's just that the upper class was smaller than our upper class. Soviets called it the Nomenklatura, the people who were the party elite. They were very privileged, and, not by our standards, but by their standards, very wealthy. They were allowed to shop in special stores and things like that. He's the son of a deputy minister in the Soviet Union who grew up with every opportunity. For various reasons, he chose to join the KGB, but all the other people in the rezidentura didn't have that background and worked their way up, so they resent him and his attitude. In this period, kids in that elite society joined the KGB and were resented. It's essentially a version of the rich kid and the working class. We're going to see how he fits in and makes his way in the rezidentura and how those two classes within the Soviet Society have to deal with each other.
What can you say about Claudia's return?
Weisberg: It's going to be emotional and have some surprising elements to it. Margo Martindale is going to be awesome.
Fields: It's a different sort of relationship since Claudia proved herself. She risked her life and her cover to save them and that changes things.
The Americans returns Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.