Television: Plenty of drama in spying game....................
NO one could look more at home in the suburbs of Washington in the 1980s than the Jennings family. Phillip and Elizabeth have a happy, stable marriage. Two lovely children. A nice house. A successful travel agency business. Oh, and one very big secret. Phillip and Elizabeth aren’t really Phillip and Elizabeth.
They’re two highly trained deep-cover Russian spies who’ve been fighting the Cold War behind enemy lines for years while posing as Americans. Not even their children know their true identities or histories.
As the ’80s get under way, tensions between the US and Russia are mounting and the pressure on the pair to obtain information on America’s political strategy and intelligence tactics is growing. But placing even more stress on them are the developments within their own home, as life in the land of the free starts to seem more and more appealing to Phillip, while Elizabeth remains faithful to the ideals of Mother Russia.
When mixed emotions and unrequited feelings also enter the fray, the Jennings’ mission becomes much more complicated and much more dangerous.
Welcome to The Americans, one of the best new dramas of the year. A gripping espionage thriller that doubles as a heartbreaking story of two people trying to navigate a relationship that’s half-lie, half-truth, it’s tremendously executed and terrifically acted.
Heading the cast are Felicity star Keri Russell, revelatory as the duty-driven Elizabeth, and Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, perhaps best-known for his role as Kevin Walker on the family drama Brothers & Sisters.
Both actors have a sizeable challenge with their characters in The Americans, and we mean characters – aside from their covers as Phillip and Elizabeth, Rhys and Russell take on a variety of different identities as part of their spycraft. But that challenge was one of the most attractive aspects of the role for Rhys.
‘‘They are playing a part within a part within a part all the time and what’s interesting to me is the unravelling of it,’’ he says.
‘‘There’s the Phillip and Elizabeth they present to the world, there’s the Phillip and Elizabeth when they’re alone – this is something they’re trying to figure out – and then there are the personas they play when on these missions. As an actor, it’s fantastic to be given something so complex and so layered.’’
And he believes the same goes for his co-star, whom he’s quick to praise: ‘‘Keri was on board the project from the very beginning and I think it was a very, very shrewd choice on their behalf.’’
– GUY DAVIS
stars Matthew Rhys, as Phillip, and Keri Russell as Elizabeth.