Pro­file Matthew Rhys

Rus­sian spies liv­ing as an Amer­i­can fam­ily is not so far-fetched, writes Zoe Nau­man who gleaned some back­ground to the se­ries.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - CELEBRITY -


Mon­day, 8.30pm, Ten MATTHEW Rhys is the first to ad­mit his lat­est drama The Amer­i­cans, is ask­ing the viewer to be­lieve in the un­be­liev­able.

A show which tells the tale of two Rus­sian spies so deeply un­der­cover they take on 24-hour Amer­i­can ac­cents, are mar­ried with chil­dren and liv­ing the State­side dream while min­ing in­for­ma­tion for the KGB, was al­ways go­ing to push the realms of prob­a­bil­ity.

But Rhys says the truth is al­ways stranger than fic­tion and this is ex­actly the case with Ten’s lat­est of­fer­ing, which bears a re­sem­blance to Home­land, but with more sex, guns and se­crecy thrown in.

‘‘You are ask­ing the au­di­ence to take a fan­tas­ti­cal leap in a way. But such a vast ma­jor­ity of it is based on spe­cific sto­ries,’’ he says.

The cre­ator, Joe Weis­berg, said, ‘‘Well ac­tu­ally that did hap­pen a lot. That’s the bizarre thing – life is usu­ally more bizarre than fic­tion. A lot of what you see in the se­ries is based on truth."

Rhys, who will be re­mem­bered by most as Kevin in Broth­ers & Sis­ters, plays Phillip in the show – a man who is lit­er­ally liv­ing a dou­ble life.

On the sur­face he is a run-ofthe-mill guy liv­ing in sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton with his wife El­iz­a­beth (Keri Rus­sell) and two chil­dren Paige (Holly Tay­lor) and Henry (Kei­drich Sel­lati). But the cou­ple are ac­tu­ally un­der­cover agents for the Rus­sian KGB, who have been trained to think, act and be­have like Amer­i­cans, while spy­ing for their coun­try dur­ing the height of the Cold War.

The drama is set in the early 1980s – cue gi­ant tape recorders, dodgy dis­guises and some iconic items on the sets, which are sure to ring a few bells with au­di­ence mem­bers of a cer­tain age.

Rhys says the plot re­ally isn’t as far-fetched as it seems.

‘‘What is fright­en­ing is in 2010, 10 il­le­gal Rus­sian op­er­a­tives were ar­rested in Jersey in New York work­ing as il­le­gals. Two of them were pos­ing as a mar­ried cou­ple who had chil­dren which I find stag­ger­ing.

‘‘They were ob­vi­ously not KGB but were part of the Rus­sian In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice.

‘‘They still had op­er­a­tives in the US un­til three years ago. In fact, my un­der­stand­ing is they still do. They haven’t stopped be­cause they caught 10 of them, it’s still go­ing on. That amazes me.’’

The ac­tor says re­search­ing his part was made a lot eas­ier thanks to the in­ter­net, and it helped him get a feel of why his char­ac­ter, who is ques­tion­ing his de­vo­tion to the mother­land, is so en­am­oured by Amer­ica.

‘‘When I was at drama school you needed to travel to the place where you were meant to be from or take a tape recorder or go to the li­brary. Now you just lie in your bed and watch YouTube videos and go on the in­ter­net.

‘‘As for Phillip, the an­gle that he has when we meet him in the se­ries, is he is on the turn.

‘‘What I looked at was Rus­sia post sec­ond world war, the Soviet Union he would have grown up in, and how stark and dif­fi­cult a place that would have been for him. It helped put his feel­ings in per­spec­tive liv­ing in the US in 1981.’’

To add to the dy­namic of con­fu­sion, Phillip and El­iz­a­beth are also find­ing their way with their re­la­tion­ship.

The cou­ple are ini­tially mar­ried in name only. But their love for each other starts to grow and that causes prob­lems for their work.

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