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The Americans - EP Joel Fields Answers SpoilerTV Readers' Questions

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Joel Fields answers SpoilerTV readers' questions about the next season, characters, and the thoughts that go into the writing of The Americans.

First of all, it’s great to be a part of something so fan-driven. We can make all the television we want, but if the fans don’t tune in, well, it’s like a tree falling in the forest, isn’t it?



What are some of the differences, if any, between being an Executive Producer of a Drama like The Americans, a Dramedy like Rizzoli and Isles and an out and out comedy like Ugly Betty?

Each show has it’s own creative pulse. For me, the question isn’t so much tone as it is what we plug into from a character standpoint. What makes The Americans so exciting to write is that the character stories are so rich and complex – and that they are always the most important aspect of the storyline.

How much free reign does FX give you in terms of the sex and violence on the show?

While the network certainly has its rules (they do not show certain kinds of nudity, for example) what seems to be of greatest concern to them is the same thing that is of concern to us: That any dramatization of sex or violence be present in the drama for the purposes of exploring a character, rather than for exploiting an audience. We have found that whenever we keep things real and honest, they work for us and the network as well. 

Being an 80's girl, I absolutely love the music the on the show. Can you give us any teasers as to some of the tracks that we'll be enjoying in Season 2?

All we can say is that there are some really exciting tracks coming up and that we’re very proud Alan Sepinwal recently said, “Americans season two continues impressive run of period songs you haven’t heard a million times but are perfect emotional fits.”

How much input do you have in choosing the music/tracks selected?

We spend a lot of time exploring song choices with our incredibly talented music supervisor PJ Bloom. We hope to have some extremely cool surprises this season. 

Without giving specifics, do you have a plan for the end of Season 2 without knowing if you'll get a Season 3 renewal? or do you leave it opened ended?

We simply wrote the end of the season with the absolute belief that there will be another season. There will be, right? There has to be! Make sure all your friends watch! 

Do you have a favourite character on the show?

If so, who? I like Joe Weisberg. He’s a real character!


Is Phillip and Elizabeth’s marriage going to be tested further ?

With a job like the one Philip and Elizabeth have, every day is a new test. Philip and Elizabeth start season two in a better place than they were throughout season one – Elizabeth is returning home from an extended absence (while she recovered from wounds incurred during the finale) and their marriage is as good as it’s ever been. But new threats will come into focus that put a strain on the Jennings family as a whole – which, of course, will affect their relationship in new and unexpected ways. 

Do Phillip and Elizabeth fully trust each other now in terms both work and personal life? or are their ideological differences still have lingering effects on them?

By the end of season one, Philip and Elizabeth found themselves in a new place in their marriage and – for the moment -- when it comes to their family and their relationship, they’re in it together. But the lure of America is strong and its comforts are enticing, which expresses itself in surprising ways – especially in how they approach raising their kids.


Holly Taylor was amazing in the first season, will Paige have a bigger part in the new season?

In last season’s finale, Paige was just beginning to turn her suspicions into actions – and we will continue to explore that thread in season two as Paige becomes more determined in her quest to understand who her parents are. Of course, nearly all teenagers experience some sort of belief that the parents they’ve always seen one way are actually different, it’s just that in Paige’s case she can’t imagine how right she is. Holly is an incredibly talented and valuable member of our cast, and she’s continued to grow as an actress as we’ve thrown more at her character. We’re sure you’re going to be blown away by the work she’s done this season.

Nina is a very interesting character, she went through a lot last season, can you hint what is next for her?

Boy, we’ve really given Nina a hard time! Throughout the first season she consistently found herself between a rock and a hard place – forced into operating as an asset for the FBI, she’s fallen into a sexual relationship with Stan, her handler, and has in turn betrayed both her own country and the FBI. As we move into season two, Nina will continue to navigate this precarious tightrope – and a new officer at the Rezidentura will play a big role in that story as well.

Do you already have in mind how the show will end or is it still on discussion between writers?

We finished breaking the season-long story sometime in mid-January, and we’ve completed drafts of all the scripts. We’re currently in revisions on the last two episodes, but we’ll be all done by the time season two hits the airwaves on February 26th at 10pm. As for the entire series arc, Joe and I spend a lot of time talking about where the story will go… we have some pretty clear ideas and yet are open to what surprises the characters may have in store for us as well.

Will there be any real life events taking place in season 2?

Season two will begin in early 1982 and, as our show was last season, it will be informed – but not shaped – by real life events. Philip and Elizabeth will deal with threats ranging from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the covert American assistance taking place in Nicaragua, and everything they do will happen under the specter of constant brinkmanship that was a hallmark of US-Soviet relations at that time.


In which way will Elizabeth being shot impact the story besides Philip going back home? How is this experience going to affect her?

Elizabeth’s injury is a stark reminder that she’s human, that she’s not invulnerable, and most importantly that if something happened to her or Philip – well, what would happen to their kids? There is also the possibility that she’s coming home – and back to work – too soon… all of which will be percolating for her character as we move into season two.

Macie Potts

Is there anything extra you can tell us about the Season 2 premiere?

It’s really great. You should watch it this Wednesday night and then again in all its re-runs! :-)

Will we get to see more of Sandra this season?

Yes… she’s still married to Stan…

Can you hint what is next for Stan?

Throughout season one, Stan found himself falling into a relationship with Nina – his KGB source – which left him in an emotionally vulnerable place that’s a recipe for disaster in any marriage – especially one already as shaky as his and Sandra’s. This season, Stan will do everything he can to continue the work he set out to do – catch illegals and stop the KGB from operating on US soil – but it’s his own emotional vulnerability that will leave him open to disaster.


We know a lot about Elizabeth's back story (e.g., Pilot, In Control, Gregory, Covert Wars), but very little about Philip's past, except for Duty & Honor. Will we ever learn more about Philip's "old" life?

Philip is extremely devoted and emotional when it comes to family in season 1 and I feel there must be something about Philip's upbringing or past that makes him work hard for his family. There will indeed be more of Philip’s backstory sneaking through in season two… but, remember, Philip and Elizabeth aren’t exactly big talkers, so be patient – it may take some time! “-)

Will we ever learn more about the early years of the Jennings' marriage?

It would be interesting to know how the characters reacted when they discussed getting pregnant or how they set rules and boundaries in their early "fake" marriage. Heck, did Elizabeth even go on maternity leave?!?!

This is a great question. All we can say is – make sure not to miss season two! :-)

Will the topic of religion ever come up at the Jennings' family table? Do they celebrate Christmas as a cover or do they not celebrate it at all?

Virginia had quite a conservative and 'bible belt' population, so I wonder how the Jennings dealt with the religion issue with their kids.

The question of religion is one we asked ourselves quite a bit in the writers room this season, and one that plays very much into the themes of our show – namely, loyalty and duty to a higher power, though we often write in terms of national sovereignty. One of the things we will explore this season is how religion affects the Jennings family, not just on a personal level but on how they interact with one another as well.


Do you have any goals in mind for what viewers take away from the program as far as changing their views of Russia?

The Americans is set firmly in the past, of course, and the Soviet Union of that time is different than the Russia that’s on the world stage today. That said, the show is meant to provoke questions about what it means to have an enemy… along with questions about identity and trust and character.

Will we begin to see more of the children's view of their family life?

The way Paige and Henry view their parents is an important part of the show and will have a substantial impact on season two. As the kids grow and mature, Philip and Elizabeth will have to become more savvy in their attempts to cover their true activities from those closest to them – which will make their family dynamic that much more challenging.


Has the CIA or FBI commented on this show?

Because Joe Weisberg signed a secrecy agreement with the CIA, all scripts that he and I co-write have to go to their XXXXX Review Board. Because I’m an insecure writer, I keep waiting for an enthusiastic “attaboy,” but so far all we get is “approved,” which is probably absolutely appropriate.


How difficult is it and how do the writers pull off making all sides of the Cold War sympathetic characters? As a viewer we pull for Philip and Elizabeth, and for Stan, and for Nina. It's an amazing feat of character development and plotting.

Thanks… I think the key is keeping a fair and balanced point of view for each of the characters in our heads and hearts as we write… when you write something from someone’s genuine point of view it tends to be understandable, if not sympathetic. And, remember, none of these characters is a sociopath, they are soldiers who believe in a greater cause, even if we may be on a different side…

I have never seen a show about Washington D.C. that balances the politics, until The Americans. It seems the writers check their own politics at the door. How do you manage to make the show so apolitical (and therefore broad in appeal)?

The key for us, again, is character… as long as we’re in what feels like the true space of their heads and hearts we don’t have to worry about politics, we just let their stories unfold.

Thanks again to Joel for taking the time answer SpoilerTV readers' questions.

Season 2 of "The Americans" premieres on February 26th on FX Channel. Be sure to come back here to SpoilerTV to let everyone else know what you thought of the episode.
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