Creating the series finale of a show that has run six seasons is a daunting enough task on its own. But when the series is as critically and commercially adored as The Americans, it should be of no shock to anyone that Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Joe Weisberg and Executive Producer/Writer Joel Fields were emotional going into the writers' room to plan out the ending for the Jennings family.
"Of course it was very emotional when we finished the draft of the final script," Weisberg tells us. "Joe and I did our little dance and we realized, 'Oh my god, we’ve written the last script of The Americans. But then when you have your last casting session, and then your last tone meeting and then your last press meeting and then your last day of production and then your last directors cut...There were so many final moments that it was hard to keep track. And there were not too many moments where we were unaware that this was the final season."
The last episode, titled "START," ended with Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) escaping to the Soviet Union to begin a new life together there as Mischa and Nadezhda. Without their children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati). Though Weisberg and Fields had considered several different ways to say "dasvidanya" to The Americans, in the end, they stayed the course they set all the way back in season two.
It was very emotional when we finished the draft of the final script.
"We really came to that ending such a long time ago really, but I think we’re all shocked that it stuck," Weisberg revealed. "We both would have predicted that after all these years [and] after all these intervening things happening that we would come up with a new ending, but it turned out that [the ending was] really it for these characters and that’s where we wanted to go."
That's not to say that they didn't have internal battles between knowing exactly where the story was going and how it would end and letting the characters surprise them and lead the writers on a completely different journey.
"Our process creatively has these two kind of opposing forces that repel each other," Weisberg admits. "One is we're both real planners and we like to be far ahead of the story and know what it’s going to be and where it’s going to go and how it’s going to unfold. But at the same time we’re also very open to being surprised in that process and completely changing it if different, more fruitful paths emerge creatively."
The Americans recently earned three TCA Awards—Program of the Year, Outstanding Achievement In Drama and Individual Achievement In Drama for star Keri Russell—and it is up for four Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, including Outstanding Drama Series. After watching the brutally heartbreaking scene in the parking garage when Stan (Noah Emmerich) confronted The Jennings, it's no surprise that the episode they submitted to the Television Academy was the series finale.
"Nobody got shot. Nobody got stabbed. Nobody bled out on the floor. It was brutal because of what the relationships were between those four people and truths and lies and emotions and emotional carnage of those relationships all wrapped up in one scene," Fields says.
Weisberg adds: "[It was] 10 minutes of those people standing still, not moving, and just experiencing the emotional brutality of where they had come."
Nobody got shot. Nobody got stabbed...It was brutal because of what the relationships were between those four people.
When asked about their favorite moments of the season, Fields and Weisberg had trouble picking just one, a problem they say they had thanks to their actors and directors who continually leave them "blown away." After referring to the scene when the mail robot got into the elevator with Stan and Aderholt as "a real highlight," Fields says all his favorite scenes are the simple ones, the ones where the characters are "just people talking to each other." "Philip and Elizabeth having one of their really, really tough discussions, of which there were plenty this season. Or Philip and Stan having one of their big discussions. Elizabeth and Paige, at the kitchen counter this season that was as good as any work they’ve ever had," says Fields.
As for the legacy of The Americans, they both hope that fans can look back on the drama series and see it for what it truly is: a story about family. "[I want fans to remember] The Americans as a show about Americans and I want to make them feel a lot, feel a lot about family and about a couple that was married," says Weisberg. "And the marriage was complex and maybe [it will] make them think about their own marriage. It was a good long story about a couple that loved each other and struggled and they made you feel a lot. That would be a pretty good legacy for the show."
Experience the legacy yourself by watching every single episode of The Americans now on FX+