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The Americans Post Mortem - Alison Wright talks Martha's phone calls, ambiguity, Clark and more

Warning: Major spoilers for tonight's episode of The Americans follow.

Does Martha perhaps want to share her Valium? Because I feel like I need it after tonight's episode.

At the end of last week's hour, Martha ran away from the safehouse threatening to scream that Gabriel was KGB. By the end of this week's, Martha had begun to accept her fate, but the ride to get there was quite something. My in-depth thoughts on the episode are here, but below is the second part of my interview with Alison Wright (the first part, published last week, is here).

Were you surprised to learn that Martha lived through this episode?

Alison Wright: Well, I knew Martha’s story for a while, so I knew what was going to happen. I knew quite ahead of time.

Looking at what happened to Nina, did that perhaps make you think that Martha’s time may soon have been up in the same way as hers was?

Alison Wright: Everybody has thought Martha’s time was up since about the second episode of season one, so that has been the general consensus across the board. And on a show like ours, people do quickly scan through the scripts to see who’s going. Our showrunners are kind enough to take people aside and let them know beforehand; they’re not going to discover it themselves reading a script. But there’s a danger in our show, sure, and more power to them that they are not crowdselling to what people might want, or might enjoy. There’s a lot of integrity to our show and they’re going to tell the story that they’re going to tell. Whether the audience is on board or not, I guess. I mean, they hope they will be, I’m sure, but they have a story to tell and they’re going to tell it.

I know a lot of the reception to Nina’s death was “We hate the creators, but also this had to happen.”

Alison Wright: And ultimately you’re glad. You can stay in support of a show if it has integrity. It’s better. You realise that you have to lose some people along the way.

One thing that I couldn’t quite work out is whether Martha yet realises that Clark’s marriage to her was a lie. He tells her his real name and yet she’s still hopeful that he can come and visit her in Russia. What was your take on that?

Alison Wright: I don’t think that him telling her his birth name made her believe that their relationship was any less valid. I think that she thinks that despite everything, I still think that she believes they fell in love and that their relationship is real at the core, that their relationship with each other, those two people, has been real. She finds out that the woman at the wedding wasn’t his mother and that [Jennifer] wasn’t his sister, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t love me. That doesn’t mean that what we have is not real, because that’s another level of trauma.

She tried to find out about that when Elizabeth found her out in the woods, wondering if she slept with Clark. What do you make of that?

Alison Wright: Well, I think it’s a natural assumption to jump to if you find out that it wasn’t his sister, so who is she? And just because you’re a man and a woman, I think it’s a natural question to jump to [when she] might be feeling insecure or afraid of the situation. I think it’s from the more obvious point of view when she asks that question, but I don’t think she thinks they’re a couple, no.

Especially in a world where Martha knows the KGB spies do use sex as a tool at times, this could happen.

Alison Wright: Right. Although I’m not so sure about how much exposure Martha would have actually had to these cases at that time. That I’m not so sure of. That’s something that I’ve gone back and forth about, how much intricate knowledge she’d have of cases and how they actually work, we haven’t committed to that at all, about how much she would know.

She was able to read files off the mail robot for two years, so, maybe.

Alison Wright: This is true. Who knows what she’s been reading.

You mentioned (in last week's portion of the interview) that most of the people [who were victims of ‘Romeo’ spies] committed suicide. There was a lot of this episode where it seemed that Martha was going to. I spent a lot of it worried that she would.

Alison Wright: Good.

That was the intended message?

Alison Wright: Yeah, there were a couple of different versions of the moment where she was up on the bridge that were written. There was one, I think the first time I read it, it ended up playing out the way it did on screen but there was another version where we see her walking away from the bridge. And it wasn’t until I read that that I went “oh my God, wait a minute, I assume that your intention was to make us think that she was gonna jump.” But if I’m right, I think they took that out of the episode and they ended up just seeing her there, we didn’t see her walk away. Because it’s something she’s contemplating, you know, the phone call she makes to her parents, directly before she goes to the bridge, could be “I just need to hear somebody who loves me and cares about me and that I can not think about anything else and just enjoy a moment of love with them” but also could be - I get upset just thinking about it - it also could be seen as a goodbye to them and I think it’s great that it’s ambiguous and that it can be many things. From the moment she walks out of that safehouse, she has no idea where she’s going. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do, she just has to get out. That’s as much as she knows: to get outside and get on the street and she can’t think past that, so she’s making this phone call, I think she has about four serious options going around in her head at that moment, but she hasn’t decided which one she’s going to do.

You mention the phone call to Martha’s parents - how was that to film?

Alison Wright: I’m on a payphone that doesn’t work, not talking to anybody. Most of the time, someone from the crew will read the lines of the other character that I’m talking to. In this case, because we were in the middle of the park and the way that it was set up, the only place that our script supervisor could be out of the shot was behind this gigantic tree, quite far away. So hearing her was a challenge but I have quite a lot of phone talking and for me, I need to learn the whole conversation. I need to learn the other actors’ lines anyway, so sometimes I’m just doing that on my own.

Martha told Clark back in the premiere that she has to know everything, even if it's hard. Now she knows virtually everything and she’s being told that she has to go and live in Russia. Does she regret that decision?

Alison Wright: I don’t know if she’s able to think that far yet at that point. This is just how things have worked out. This is her story, this is what’s happened, this is where she is now. Do I think that she would go back if she could and say “don’t tell me anything, no, I don’t want to know”? I don’t think so. I think that this was inevitable and that she’s beginning to think so as well.

She mentions to Clark that she’ll be alone again, just like before she met him and it does come back again to: if she had the choice, now that she knows, would she have preferred to not have had Clark and been able to continue her life, or those few years of happiness - that she still thinks is real - does that somewhat make up for this?

Alison Wright: I think the second one is the right kind of feeling, yeah. You can’t lessen or cheapen or suppose that it wasn’t as important as it was, the amount of love for him. All of this that she’s done has come from her love for him and she loves him tremendously and very deeply and believed that she was loved equally as deeply back. Because he is a manipulator. He’s with this special branch of these Americans, of these KGB Americans and he’s skilled and he’s been playing her like a fiddle from the very beginning. He told her what she wanted to hear, made her feel the way that she wanted to feel, supplied her with everything to think that she was in this excellent relationship.

It’s tragic.

Alison Wright: It is, it really is. It’s a terrible, terrible thing to do to a person.

It’s funny, because this show does so many things that are horrible to watch and horrible to think about someone doing, and this is one of the worst.

Alison Wright: Yeah, this is unbelievably cruel in a different way.

She says during her phone call with Clark that she just wants it to end. Do you think that she was aware that that end may be her death?

Alison Wright: Yeah, yeah. She’s calling them after she calls her mom and she’s shocked when he picks up, she doesn’t expect him to pick up and it takes her a second. And her first line is “I wasn’t expecting you to pick up, Clark,” but then that as an actor gives me all the information of ‘OK, who was it that she thought she was going to talk to and what was she going to say to them?’ And how is that changing now that she has to deal with him instead. And he talks her down, he talks her down in that moment, he gets her back in, he pulls her back in. She crumbles and tells him where she is and then she’s sideswiped again and he lets her down again because he doesn’t show up, but Jennifer shows up instead.

Does that maybe shake her trust in him?

Alison Wright: I think that’s definitely there. ‘Why is he not here, why not him, why is it her?’ And that she already has very mixed feelings about Jennifer and because it’s easier for her to be angry at Jennifer and be angry at Gabriel than it is for her to be angry at Clark. So she’s much firmer with them than she can be with him.

When Jennifer first shows up, is Martha maybe a little bit scared that ‘this is not my husband. I know my husband can do these things, has killed for me before but I don’t think he can do that to me, whereas this person, Jennifer, who knows?’

Alison Wright: That’s very true. I don’t know if her mind would even entertain that that quickly but Jennifer certainly. Martha is terrified, she’s running and hiding from the KGB and the FBI, she hasn’t got anywhere to go, she’s in a park somewhere, she has no idea what to do. She knows she can’t use her bank cards, she can’t get a ticket somewhere, she has to be careful who she’s calling and how long she stays on the phone. She’s completely alone and afraid and very jumpy, and she is afraid and jumpy and suspicious when Jennifer shows up. And disappointed that Clark couldn’t keep his word again.

Even with the outward pour of emotion, she’s relatively calm and level-headed about all of this.

Alison Wright: I think more so in seven, there is a calm and a stillness that comes after you’ve been through gigantic trauma and stress, whether that’s being numb and staring into space or not moving very much but the body takes over as well to some extent. And I think we see a lot of that calm that you’re talking about in seven when she’s piecing it together that she’s on her own from now on: she’s never gonna see her husband again, she’s never gonna see her parents again.

What can you say about how much more of Martha we’ll be seeing, how much are you allowed to tell me about that?

Alison Wright: Probably absolutely nothing at this point. I think I have to keep totally schtum, yeah.

About the Author - Bradley Adams
17 year old based in England, currently Senior Staff at SpoilerTV. Most of his posts are news/spoiler based, though he is currently the reviewer of Person of Interest, co-host on the SpoilerTV Podcast. Created and is in charge of the yearly Favourite Episode Competition and currently runs the Favourite Series Competition. A big TV fan, his range of shows are almost exclusively dramas, while some of his all-time favourite shows include 24, LOST, Breaking Bad and Friends. Some of his current favourites include Person of Interest, Banshee, Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul and many more. He also runs an Arrow fans site, ArrowFansUK, and aside from TV, is a keen cricketer. Get in touch with him via the links below or via email
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