Noah Emmerich on the Dramas and Intrigues of The Americans
Debuting Jan. 30, drama stars John Rhys and Kerri Russell as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, Soviet agents posing as a normal American couple living in suburban Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s. But even as their arranged marriage appears to grow more genuine, their relationship is tested by the escalation of the Cold War, Phillip’s growing affinity for the American way of life, and the arrival of a new neighbor (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counter-intelligence.
There are just four more episodes left in the season, and Spinoff Online caught up with Emmerich in a conference call to discuss what lies ahead for The Americans. His character, Stan Beeman, has proved to be a problem for the Jennings family, and Emmerich said Stan’s increasing closeness to Phillip could lead to interesting places.
“I think there’s a real affection and relationship evolving between Stan and Philip,” he said. “I think they like each other. How it impacts Stan’s suspicions I think I won’t touch that. I think it’s better to let the audience try and figure that out. Life is gray, so we have people in our lives that we like, maybe even love, that maybe we don’t necessarily trust entirely, maybe we do trust entirely. That changes over time with different experiences and different events how well we really know each other and how much we believe that we know each other. But I do think there’s an authentic bond and amicability between the two of them that hopefully we’ll get to explore more as the season and the series progresses.”
There’s also Stan’s relationship with his KGB mole Nina, played by Annet Mahendru, to deal with. Stan recently cheated on his wife Sandra with Nina, but Emmerich said he doesn’t think his character views that as a serious betrayal.
“I think in his relationship with Nina he’s found sort of a counterpoint to himself, someone else who’s isolated and alone,” he said. “I think that the human need for connection, the human need for reflection, for being seen and understood, is quite powerful, and although superficially it’s a conflict with the loyalty of his fidelity to his wife, I think the need that he has for connection and reflection and understanding trumps, somehow in his soul in that moment, the notion that it’s a betrayal. I don’t think Stan thinks of it consciously, analytically as a betrayal, it’s just it’s a human need that emerges and to which he surrenders to some degree.”
Although he believes there are real feelings between Stan and Nina, he also thinks they both use sex as a weapon. That said, Emmerich expects Stan will naturally come to distrust Nina.
“Nina is a Russian spy, so I think Stan rightly assumes that she would be privy to some of the events that are taking place, would have information about what operations they’re executing. And when it comes so close to home and his partner is missing I think he assumes that she must have some information, or at least access to some information that would help him find his partner,” he said, referencing the this week’s episode “Safe House,” in which Stan’s partner Chris Amador disappeared and was later found dead.
Emmerich continued, “So his sort of dogged determination and the tonal shift that happens when he goes to see her after Amador is missing is about the reality of the fact that whatever his feelings for her are personally they are outweighed dramatically by the fact that his partner and fellow American is in dire jeopardy, and he’ll do anything he can at that point to ensure the safe recovery of Amador.”
Once Stan discovered Amador was dead in “Safe House,” he killed the KGB agent Vlad, whom he had previously threatened. Emmerich said that although the murder was motivated by revenge, Stan didn’t get any pleasure out of it. He also clarified the need for Vlad’s death was political, not personal.
“I don’t think it’s an emotional, rash decision. I think it’s a calculated chess move that he feels must be made,” Emmerich said. “It’s a Cold War, and he’s made it clear, he’s drawn a line that unless Amador is returned in health to his job there will repercussions, and if you don’t follow through with that threat then you lose all credibility in the future. So I think in some way I think that’s in fact what drives Stan to do that.”
The Americans airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.