/// Sleeper Agent

January 15, 2013  |  Media Week

Craft services appears to have closed for business, but Keri Russell would very much like something to nibble on if it wouldn’t be an imposition on the people packing away the last of the chips, cookies and crackers. This is not a diva trip—if anything, the petite actress somehow appears to make herself physically smaller as she asks to forage around in the snack bin. The sun is setting on the second day of the new year, and Russell has just spent the better part of the last three hours filming a pivotal scene for the new FX series, The Americans (Jan. 30, 10 p.m.). It’s a long, rather tricky passage—there’s a good deal of futzing with an old reel-to-reel tape recorder, and some of the lines seem a bit more knotty than they absolutely need be—and so Russell and her co-star, Matthew Rhys, had run into a few rough patches earlier in the afternoon. Having secured a small bag of pretzels (“I promise not to munch too loudly into your tape recorder”), Russell’s discernible self-possession is offset by a disarming tendency to punctuate her sentences with one of the few words you still can’t say on basic cable. Joking about how long it took to nail the scene, she refuses to make any excuses for the delay. “If I would have known my lines, I would have talked to you sooner. But I did not, as you saw!” she laughs. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, that scene! Good riddance, that scene! Never again!” The Americans marks Russell’s first starring role on the tube since she became a pop-culture phenomenon as the lead of the WB’s Felicity (1998-2002). Set in 1981, the show focuses on a sleeper cell of married KGB agents (Russell and Rhys) posing as regular folks in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The tension between Russell’s character, the fully indoctrinated spy Elizabeth Jennings, and Rhys’ more ambivalent Philip Jennings, ratchets up almost unbearably as their mutual attraction is increasingly at odds with the demands of the KGB and the dissonance between their respective ideologies. The Jennings’ partnership is the nougaty center at the heart of the rich confection that is The Americans , and the balance between the domestic drama and the requisite trappings of espionage make the show the must-watch new midseason series . “Look, I actually love spy stuff, but the interesting thing to me and the reason I said yes to the show was that marriage,” Russell says.

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Sleeper Agent

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