Television The Americans

ATX Festival: The Americans Panel

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Image Source: The Austin Chronicle

 

With my recent move to Austin, I was lucky enough to nab a ticket to ‘The Americans’ Panel at Austin’s Television Festival. I knew it was going to be a special panel, because the show had recently ended and the panel was going to be about the last season and about the series as a whole. The panel of cast members that attended was superb and even the showrunners and executive producer made an appearance. I was super excited and I couldn’t wait for all of them to come on stage.

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Image Source: Jackie Lalumandier (myself)

It was surreal to see them all on stage and their dynamic was amazing! Everyone joked around with each other and was super supportive. They truly seemed like they all got along. Now, enough of my rambling, here’s some highlights from the panel.

  • When talking about the ending of the show, Keri Russell had talked about how she wanted Elizabeth and Phillip to pay in some way at the very end. In some way, they did. They finally got caught by Stan, and even though their ending wasn’t brutal, like being arrested or getting killed, the couple had no choice but to leave America, leave their kids behind, and go back to Russia. I personally liked the ending of the show because they didn’t get an awful demise, but they realized their mistakes (especially Phillip), and dealt with their consequences.
  • And with the realization that they had to leave America, it was stated that it was a slow realization for Elizabeth and Phillip, that they had to leave their son behind. You can definitely see that play out in the last episode, because it was a lot of dialogue back and forth about whether or not Henry could come with them to Russia. Inevitably, they had to leave him behind, because unlike Paige, Henry had no idea that his parents were Russia spies at all. His whole life had been in America and he was living his life at a boarding school that he wanted to go to. For once, Elizabeth felt that Henry needed to come with them to Russia, to stay together as a family, but Phillip had made up his mind, that he didn’t want to corrupt Henry’s life and that he needed to stay. It was a pretty hard scene to watch because just the idea of parents leaving their child behind without telling them, is just plain horrible.
  • We got plenty of cute moments between Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, and one thing Keri mentioned, was that you’re not as good as your scene partner. And one thing she would miss about the show, would be acting against her scene partner, aka, her real life partner 😢. That was so sweet for her to say because since the beginning, her and Matthew have had amazing chemistry. Elizabeth and Phillip went through so much as a couple and they always played their scenes out effortlessly. I’m also going to miss seeing them together onscreen.
  • When discussing the finale scene on the train, we got some insight about what went into filming that scene. First of all, they had some trouble figuring out what kind of train that were going to film on because they would have to shut down train lines, so they opted for a metro train line.  Also, it was discussed how the show liked to throw in long scenes of just silence, and that they did just that during the train scene. With the Jennings getting on the train, showing their passports and leaving the station, with the reveal that Paige got off of the train. It was 17 minutes of silence, with “With or without you” by U2 playing as the emotional drive forward. It was such a powerful scene, because their were some moments where you thought they could get caught, but they didn’t. And when you thought everything was going right, Paige made that decision to leave her parents behind. I’m actually really proud of her, because she didn’t need to run away from the country she grew up in, she wanted to live her life and move past all the chaos she had endured.
  • Matthew got asked if Phillip really wanted to go back to Russia, and his answer was that he didn’t want to go back. I totally agree with him because since the beginning, we always knew that Phillip wanted to live a better life in America. He may have wanted to better his country, so that other Russians could have a better life there, but he quickly realized that America was where he wanted to be.
  • Another crucial scene that took place in silence, was when Stan broke the news to Henry, that his parents were Russian spies and that they were leaving America. Noah Emmerich (Stan) and Keidrich Sellati (Henry) both talked about the scene a little bit, and we learned that in that moment, Noah was actually telling Keidrich that his characters parents were spies and that they couldn’t stay, and so there wasn’t anything special that the two were talking about in that scene, besides what was actually supposed to be taking place in that moment. It was pretty heart wrenching to see Henry’s face during that scene, because he now realizes that he’s been lied to all this time and that he probably won’t see him parents ever again. I do like that Stan took over as his guardian and actually broke the news to him in person.
  • Now at this moment, the panel was finally asked about the infamous garage scene, and we learned all the information about how the scene came about. First of all, the scene took the most time to write and even after writing the scene, the creators didn’t know if it was good or not. It wasn’t until the table read, that they saw that it played out really well. And when acting out the scene, Matthew got asked if Phillip was playing Stan the whole time or if he was actually being honest. And he responded that he played it honest and sincere. Yet again, I totally agree with what Matthew said, because even though in the beginning, Phillip seemed to faking his way out of the situation, he then realized that he needed to let the truth out and let Stan know his truth. That even though he was a Russian spy, in the end, it wasn’t for him. His life had basically been a lie. And to top off the greatness that was Stan and Phillip’s friendship, Matthew had to throw out this quote to Noah… “I don’t know how to quit you.” 😂
  • Going back to the train scene, and the fact that Paige made the decision to get off and leave her parents behind. Holly Taylor got asked if Paige was out of the spy game or not. And Holly was pretty sure that Paige would be out of the spy game. That definitely was a no brainer.
  • Talking more about Henry, there was a really interesting conversation about how the character evolved throughout the series. The creators talked about how when they cast Holly and Keidrich, they were young actors at the time and they didn’t know what directions the characters were going to in, but with Henry, they didn’t want to throw him to wayside like most shows do with the younger brother. So when it came to the last season, they made Henry the emotional touchstone of the family. In the end, the families main concern was will Henry be alright all alone in America? And do they risk contacting him moments before they leave. This all made so much sense to me when they said this. Yes, they did kind of leave Henry by the wayside in the earlier seasons, but once Henry left for boarding school, he did become that touchstone for everyone. Phillip would call Henry often to see how he was doing, and when it was time for the family to leave, Paige was extremely concerned for her brother and even Elizabeth, who didn’t really have a relationship with her son, wanted him to come with them to Russia. And another point that was made, was that Henry was the most American member of the Jennings family.
  • Another topic that was quickly talked about, was if Stan’s girlfriend, Rene, was indeed a spy. We still don’t know, but Noah said that Stan would definitely keep that fact in the back of his mind. I’m sure in the future, Stan will be doing a little investigation on his girlfriend, because now that she got a job at the FBI, if she really is a Russian spy, she will uncover a lot secrets.
  • Moving the discussion to more behind the scenes stuff, we got some input about the disguises that were used by Elizabeth and Phillip throughout the seasons. We learned that for each character, the writers actually wrote a complete biography of the character, so that Keri and Matthew were actually playing a fully formed character. And what was cool, was that when they would do makeup tests for the different disguises, Keri and Matthew would stay in character, so that makeup and wardrobe could see what was right or wrong for that particular character. That’s full commitment.
  • Lastly, Holly and Keidrich had a hilarious banter back and forth about the wardrobe because of how terrible clothing was in the 80’s. Keidrich complained about how uncomfortable mom jeans were and that the acid wash look was awful. and Holly complained about how itchy the wool sweaters were. It was funny to see them go on and on about how terrible the clothing was, when all the adults just laughed because they obviously lived during that decade.

 

Joel Fields, Joe Weisberg, Chris Long, Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Brandon J. Dirden
Image Source: People

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my LONG description of the panel, but I wanted to make sure to write down all the interesting details to share with all of you. I’m really glad I went to this panel because this show has come to a close and I wanted to see this cast one last time.

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