AUSTIN, Texas— As FX’s critically acclaimed drama “The Americans” heads toward its final season, the show’s creators Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields came to the ATX TV Festival to discuss their approach to the last ten episodes, but managed to artfully evade revealing too much about the fates of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and their family.
Fields and Weisberg admitted that with all the talk of Russia in the news, they often devoted lunch hours to talking politics, but current events didn’t spill over into the plotlines. “When we write the show, we’re in a bubble,” said Weisberg, in the panel moderated by Variety‘s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum. “We don’t want people watching and thinking those clever writers put something there about Donald Trump.”
Fields said that the recent headlines of Russians spying on Americans and tampering with elections did impact them. “We’ve spent years learning how good the Russians were at this kind of spy craft,” he said “To see it play out on the news now at this high level is staggering.” Weisberg added, “When the show started, things were peaceful with Russia. We thought we’d humanize people who were thought to be our enemy, and now, a few years later, people are foaming at the mouth about them.”
Asked if stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys know what’s in store for the finale, Fields said they do. “We told them everything a couple months ago. Good luck getting them to talk.”
Rhys went back and forth about how much he wanted to know in any given season, but Weisberg said that changed when Rhys started directing episodes, “It’s been great having him direct,” he said. “Matthew and Noah (Emmerich) have both directed episodes and they bring so much understanding and depth of everything they’ve dealt with as actors. It’s been fun to bring them into more layers of the process and get to know them as a different type of artist.”
Fields praised the show’s cast and how their acting range expanded the show’s dramatic potential, “What we’ve learned is that whatever we can dream, they will amplify in beautiful ways,” he said. “There are some shows where you have to be cognizant of actor limitations — that’s not our show. There’s been a liberation in that process.”
Trying to get hints about the show’s final season and impending finale resulted in a good amount of stonewalling, but Weisberg offered up some teases for the final season, “There are a lot of pieces hanging out there, a lot of stories, a lot of threads of who these people are and how their lives are going to end up, and their emotional development, ” he said. “The final season is only ten episodes. It’ll be action packed and emotion packed.”
Fields added, “Because we’re coming to the end, we’ve had to write more. Usually we break the entire arc of next season at the end of the prior season and we usually outline the first seven episodes. In this case, it was sort of impossible to write episodes four, five, six and seven and we had to outline all of season six in advance.”
Asked if there will be a time jump in the final season, the producers paused, then issued a “Nooooo comment.”
Weisberg mentioned “‘Mad Men,’ ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘NYPD Blue'” as series finales he admires, but Fields stressed, “We talk about literary and cinematic finales, too. We have to find the way this one wants to be told.”
One thing viewers can count on: “Season 6, all questions will be answered — there’s no way out,” said Weisberg.
“The Americans” returns for its final season on FX in 2018.