How do you write the ending of a critically acclaimed and commercially adored TV series? According to showrunner Joel Fields, you rewrite it again and again until “the last frame is locked.”
The stars and creators of The Americans spoke to Variety about the beginning and the end of the drama series and as much as they wax poetic about the start of the show, there were also fond descriptions of how The Americans wraps up.
“[The ending] they’ve created is so satisfying in a really surprising way. It’s exactly in line with the tone of the show,” star Keri Russell reveals. “It really got me.” Russell, who plays one half of the married spy couple, also talks about how nabbing the role of Elizabeth Jennings changed the trajectory of her career.
“It was a real adult creative job for me,” she says. “I wasn’t playing a kid anymore. It kind of woke me up creatively. Elizabeth is tough and cool and strong and sexy and all of these things I really enjoy playing. You don’t always enjoy the characters you get to play.”
The casting of both Elizabeth and her husband Phillip Jennings, played by Matthew Rhys, was as important to the show as anything else. Their marriage wasn’t just a plot device; it was the foundation of the entire show.
“To the extent the show is about the other themes—trust, identity and relationships between nation-states, politics as an expression of our morality, all of that is an extension of the marriage story,” says Fields. “The marriage serves as allegory for the nation-states, and the nation-states serve as allegory for the marriage.”
Speaking of marriage, the onscreen chemistry of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys has been a pivotal piece of The Americans puzzle. Their positive mentality rippled throughout the whole crew.
“They have a fantastic combination of genius talent, sheer human decency and work ethic,” Joel Fields tells Variety of his two stars. “They lead from a place of inner strength and outer collaboration. It’s a very special thing. There’s no episode where there aren’t several times when Matthew and Keri and their spirit on the set carries the crew through the final scene. They’re always there making everybody feel good about doing their best work.”
And that feeling of family and unity onset has been one of the biggest reasons for the success of The Americans, a sentiment that was woven throughout the fabric of the series from the very beginning. “There’s a feeling that we’re working on something serious that means something,” showrunner Joe Weisberg says about creating the show. “I don’t think we’re creating world peace or anything, but it is a form of art. If you care about it, it’s a lot easier to come to work every day and treat the people around you well.”
To read more about the creation and the send-off of The Americans, check out the full article on Variety.