Pop Culture

'The Americans' cast talk 'most powerful, shocking and mildly humorous' sex scene

Frederick M. Brown / Today
"The Americans" stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys at a press conference in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday.

Anyone who's walked in on their parents having sex knows that particular trauma lasts a lifetime. The second-season premiere of "The Americans," which airs on FX on Feb. 26, features an especially cringe-worthy scene. It's too hilariously shocking to spoil, but there's not enough bleach in the Jennings' laundry room to wash that particular image out of the mind of the unintended witness.

"I think what we wanted to depict was the most powerful, shocking and mildly humorous (image), " executive producer Joe Weisenberg told television critics at the Television Critics Association winter press tour Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif. "But (we) also actually talked a lot about that moment — what would be right, and what would be true, and what would capture all those things."

"We discussed every possible position, and that's the one we came up with that moment," executive producer Joel Fields added with a laugh.

Star Matthew Rhys, who plays KGB spy but devoted parent Philip Jennings, was quick to point out: "No children were harmed in the filming of that scene." His announcement drew a hearty laugh from the assembled journalists, but producer Weisenberg said, in all seriousness, "That's an interesting point — (the young actor) didn't really walk in on the scene. They were shot in two separate scenes."

Count your blessings, kid.

Sex is part of a spy's job description, and "The Americans" doesn't shy away from capturing those intimate moments, whether it's between a married couple, a fake married couple, or an intelligence agent and his or her target. "You're usually using the sexuality at least in the spy end of it to get something," said star Kerri Russell.

"But the good thing about the sexuality in the show — at least where I'm coming at it — there is a gift in not having (it) be this big, sweeping romantic, movie and have to be so in love and so beautiful and so sexy … There is kind of a freedom in that. It's kind of messier and more direct than that." Turning to Rhys, her fellow panelist and co-star, Russell said, "You should talk — you have the most sex on show!"

"That's in my contract," he deadpanned.

"All joking aside," the actor told TODAY after the panel, "there usually is alcohol involved, because I’m not — neither of us are — comfortable doing it in front of … the crew are no longer strangers, but it's not something you enjoy or relish or ever really become comfortable doing."

Are the scenes easier to film with his co-star than the show's guest stars?

"Yes and no," Rhys mused. "There's an anonymity to the guest stars —you'll never see them again, so you're sort of blinking your way through it. The people you know better you're slightly more embarrassed about."