More of 'The Americans' means more danger —and yes, wigs
On the second season of “The Americans,” viewers will meet Record Girl and Scary Ice Skater. But the show’s two stars, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, are most excited that Fernando is making another appearance.
It’s not the norm for actors to name their wigs, but as viewers of FX’s spy thriller have come to know, these are no ordinary hairpieces. Some have even gone as far as to declare them "the real stars" of the show. In their duplicitous double agent lives, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings don many disguises, which have attracted as much attention as the drama’s fine writing and performances.
Russell gets it: “Oh yeah, there’s been some great wigs. Some bad wigs. Some embarrassing wigs,” she told TODAY during an interview. “We name them all.”
For example? “This season, I’ve had Record Girl,” she said. “She’s one of the bad ones — this sort of short black, kind of Winona Ryder-y with very big eye makeup. Kind of an innocent Goth girl. Then there’s Scary Ice Skater — it’s a whipped-out Dorothy Hamill and I’m supposed to be very menacing. And we kept looking at it going, ‘This is not scary. This is just bad.’ We do laugh a lot. We name all of Matthew’s, too. Our favorite is Fernando. We’ve decided he’s a flamenco teacher and he only talks in a Spanish accent when he’s in it.”
If you don’t remember Fernando, you’ll see Fernando Light in the second season, which premieres Wednesday.
“He’s the man that turns up in the very first episode, when there’s that lascivious, lecherous man looking at his daughter at the department store and he beats him up,” Rhys told TODAY. “He has that greasy hair and goatee. He is everyone’s favorite. I had to push hard for him to come back. I asked if he could have a Spanish accent but they said, ‘No! This isn’t 'Mission: Impossible'!”
But it's arguably better. Phillip and Elizabeth are Russian spies working deep cover near the nation’s capital during the Reagan era. Their Moscow-arranged marriage includes two biological children and a travel agency they co-own. During the course of the first season, Phillip and Elizabeth struggled with discovering genuine feelings for each other and breaking up. But in the season finale, after being shot, Elizabeth asked Phillip to “come home.”
The second season kicks off a few months later, with the couple reconciling, and for the first time, dealing with each other as real spouses. The shift also forces them to confront the danger their unknowing children face as a result of their parents' chosen careers.
“They are a unit and as much as last season was about them wrestling with that question, I think they now know it’s real and they want to be together,” Russell said. "This season is more about them wanting to protect that unit and the family and everyone else and maybe naively for the first time realizing maybe they can’t.”
In addition to external threats to the safety of their children, as well as the imminent fear that their kids will figure them out, Elizabeth and Phillip now deal with their emotions getting in the way of their jobs. As part of their covers, they each have sex with other people whenever necessary, and Phillip even took it as far as entering into a second fake marriage in the first season. When he married Martha (Alison Wright), secretary to FBI supervisor Frank Gaad (Richard Thomas), Elizabeth attended the ceremony pretending to be his sister.
“Martha! That poor woman, I know!” Rhys said. “In this new stage of discovery for Phillip and Elizabeth, juggling Martha becomes a different situation. There’s a huge compassion in Phillip when he’s trying to balance the two, but it’s hard. As we see the evolution of them as a real couple, the other elements they’ve contented with for years, especially the ‘honey trapping,’ takes on a brand new effect on their relationship. I’m romantic at heart so I love that they have found each other in that respect.”
In the first episode, Phillip takes Elizabeth on a “date night” on her first day back at home — an evening that lands Elizabeth in an unprecedented extramarital situation and Phillip in a murder spree.
“I’ve had dates like that,” Rhys joked. "That's behind me."
“It was so dark and yucky!” Russell added. “And, clearly, she’s not ready to do that but she’s doing it to come back. Now that they are in a different emotional place — a more intimate closer space — I don’t think that’s going to last so long. I think that’s going to be hard to do — those 'honey traps,' as we call them. Those are very real, human relationship feelings. They are my favorite moments of the show.”