How ‘The Americans’ Orchestrated This Season’s Key Interrogation Scene

The Americans FX
Courtesy of Patrick Harbron/FX

Anatomy of a Scene: “The Americans,” Season 5, Ep. 11 (FX)

Philip (matthew rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) were forced to reconsider the righteousness of their mission when they were confronted by the innocent people victimized by their work. No episode conveyed this more powerfully than “Dyatkovo,” which ends with Philip and Elizabeth interrogating Natalie Granholm (Irina Dubova). “We really built the episode around it,” says director Steph Green. “It is the entire third act of the story, and it’s a culmination of so much of what’s going on for Philip and Elizabeth.”

Brad Smith
Director of Photography
Green calls Smith “a wonderful DP who’s come up from being an operator on the show, who understands the cinematic approach that we take to ‘The Americans,’ where fancy camerawork is never to overshadow these incredible characters. Part of what Brad was doing with the lighting was just making sure this was a woman in her home, her domestic safe space interrupted by Elizabeth and Philip’s presence. We shot the two couples [Philip and Elizabeth, and Natalie and her husband] in two separate lines of sight. The camerawork really gave each relationship its own pocket of coverage. Natalie and her husband had their own story that was being respected by the camerawork, and didn’t exist just in service of Philip and Elizabeth’s story.”

Rori Bergman
Casting Director
“The pressure is on Rori weekly to find people so quickly,” Green says. “This is a role that, had it been done in a movie, I feel we would have searched for months. She has five to seven days to find us this level of brilliance. Irina Dubova was working as an accountant. She had done short films and plays in Russia, but very little of late. Life just kind of interrupted and she hasn’t been performing for years. So Irina takes a couple of weeks off from her accounting job to do this incredible role and Rori found her. Rori is always discovering and looking for these particular actors. We’re always appreciative of who she finds, but unlike some of these other big episodes, this is not a name, this was a find, and she deserves so much credit for casting Irina, who was incredible.”

Amanda Pollack
Editor
“Amanda has been editing ‘The Americans’ for a while. She’s also responsible for ‘Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep,’ the other episode this one’s been compared to. She is so thoughtful in her editing technique, looking for the truth in expression, down to the eyebrow twitches. Just very deliberate in cutting around melodrama and finding truly poignant dramatic moments. ‘The Americans’ is a show that works with very thoughtful restraint as a guiding principle. If it doesn’t need music, don’t put it there. If it doesn’t need quick cuts, stay on the image, stay on the character, don’t cut away. I think it’s a show that forces you to sit with complicated ideas, and I give a lot of credit to the [editing] for really asking you to look carefully and feel fully what’s going on.”

Nathan Barr
Composer
“I don’t get to work directly with Nathan as much as I wish I did, but I was so impressed with these very deliberate music choices,” Green says. “There are these music choices just gently easing in at a few moments of revelation. This was a 15- or 16-minute sequence and it could’ve been overrun with music, but this show uses music in effective and suspenseful ways. It’s very delicate and melodic in this scene, and doesn’t overwhelm it.”

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  1. Paul Berman says:

    This episode was really unnerving. I was right in the room. I felt Phillips disgust and the horror that descended on the victim couple. Most horrifying to me personally I was able to get that Elizabeth HAD to do this and understand that she was in the end correct. I have some minor experience with acting. Youe actors are amazing. And so was the direction.

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