‘The Americans’: Matthew Rhys Talks Russian Family Values For Season Premiere

The Americans premieres its third season tonight, picking up where it left off last season in the story of two KGB spies living undercover as an all-American family in the 80s. Posing as a married couple, the two spies have two children on the show, and with their eldest daughter coming of age, the KGB wants her parents to recruit her as a spy, also. This started a major conflict between Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in Season 2, which will come to a head this season.

Rhys sat down on a media conference call Monday to dish some spoilers about the upcoming season of The Americans, and what goes on in the mind of Philip, Elizabeth, and the many undercover characters they play.

While they have many challenges this season with being KGB agents, the internal conflict of Elizabeth wanting to tell their daughter the truth and Philip adamantly against it will be a huge theme for The Americans this season.

“Yes, it’s sort of the predominant and overriding arc for Philip and Elizabeth during this season, which is this enormous conflict between them that sets them poles apart, really, as they come from two opposing sides as to what should be done about Paige. Really, the entire season is that grapple and that wrestle between the two as they thrash it out.”

The back-story for Rhys’ and Russell’s characters on The Americans includes being recruited for the KGB at a very young age, being taught to kill and use sex at times to gain information. In fact, the couple were randomly matched when they came to the United States and have had to live as husband and wife under false identities. Rhys talked about how his character’s recruitment at such a young age is now coloring his opinion on recruiting their own daughter.

“He doesn’t want her pushed into something at such a young, vulnerable, impressionable age whereby in a few years she’s in up over her head because it’s not something you just – it’s not a job you can quit overnight or walk away from and he doesn’t want her to have to do the many awful things that he has to do in order to stay alive and, therefore, keep the family alive… I think he’s absolutely immovable in that respect. There’s nothing on God’s green earth that could make him acquiesce to the fact that she should join the KGB or, indeed, the intelligence world.”

Another factor driving the conflict this season on The Americans is their daughters’ deepening involvement with religion, which both Philip and Elizabeth are against. Elizabeth sees it as reaching for some cause to belong to and a sign it’s time to recruit her, while Philip realizes their daughter has become vulnerable to outside sources because of their lack of parenting.

“I think Philip and Elizabeth both suffered from absent parents in one respect or the other and Russia being what it was at that time and they’re sort of having indoctrination of what communism was and it being the only way and the right way at a very young, impressionable age… I think the same has happened for Paige. She’s suffered enormously from two very absent parents and has sought the sort of comfort and light and guidance from elsewhere.”

If you’re interested in a teaser about the spying aspect of The Americans, suffice it to say Philip and Elizabeth are in for some very dangerous situations this season as federal agents close in on capturing them.

The FX series has struggled with ratings despite very strong critical reviews for The Americans, and the majority of those who give it a try hail it as one of the best shows on television. It’s too late to binge watch the first two seasons if you’ve missed them, but you can pick up the Season 3 premiere of The Americans tonight on FX at 10 p.m.

[Photo via the FX media kit]