One of midseason’s most compelling new shows is the FX spy thriller “The Americans,” and what’s really intriguing about it is that viewers may not be rooting for the home team.
That’s, in part, because of the seductive casting of “Felicity’s” Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (“Brothers and Sisters”) as married Russian spies in the Cold War drama set during the Reagan era.
“We want you to root for the KGB,” producer Joel Fields told TV reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles. “I think we would all very much like both for Philip and Elizabeth to have a happy, healthy marriage that goes on for a long time.”
He admits it’s an unusual conceit, but within the narrative constructed, he hopes viewers will be rooting for the undercover couple.
“I think if you tried to tell a story like this, you know, about al Qaeda now, it would be completely impossible. Nobody would be prepared to hear it,” Fields said.
The Soviet mission brings together Elizabeth and Philip into an arranged marriage, living as a seemingly normal-looking American couple in suburban Washington D.C., with their two children — whom they also have to keep their secrets from.
“From the start, it’s going to have a lot of ups and downs like most of the marriages that we’re all familiar with,” Fields said.
The series comes from Graham Yost, who will be pulling double duty on “The Americans” and his other FX show, “Justified,” and the talent behind the scenes knows a thing or two about covert ops — producer Joe Weisberg actually was in the CIA from 1990-1994.
There will be plenty of action and espionage to keep viewers engaged, but at its core, the show is about the couple’s relationship — a very, very complicated one, especially after Elizabeth and Philip begin to develop real feelings for each other beyond their cover story.
“Part of what’s great about what Joe created is it’s a show about marriage, and the marriage is an allegory for the international relations,” Fields said. “So you kind of root for where you are, we hope, emotionally in the scenes.”
Another obstacle is costar Noah Emmerich, who plays the FBI agent who just so happens to move in right next door to the sleeper agents.
The roles take some level of physicality for the actors, but Russell seemed to have an edge over her costars. “Her dance background lent itself perfectly to kicking men’s heads through walls,” Rhys joked to reporters.
“She scares the sh*t out of me,” Rhys added. “Like most wives,” Russell replied.
Even scarier, since the series takes place in 1981, you know what that means … high-waisted jeans.
Russell’s ’80s-inspired wardrobe includes high-wasited mom jeans that are so high, it was “incredibly difficult” for her to hide her gun in her belt.
“The Americans” premieres Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 10/9c on FX.