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NYCC: The Americans Infiltrate New York "Commie Con"

Paul Gullas writes for Bleeding Cool:

"This many people are here for The Americans?!". That was me on Friday afternoon,  exclaiming to some startled fans, half an hour before the panel for FX's spy thriller was due to start. It was a little surprising to see how long the line to get in was, winding its way into the cavernous Autograph & Photo Ops area. The show, about early-1980s Russian spies raising a family in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, enjoys critical acclaim, but moderate ratings. Plus, "Cold War spy/family drama" isn't the kind of genre that one would think could compete for crowds with superhero shows, anime, and a Stephen Amell photo op.

But I was wrong because the room was packed and the fans were loud.

The event kicked off with an eight-minute-long clip showing some of the most tense and bloody moments from Season 2.

AmericansGrantland's TV critic Andy Greenwald moderated the panel and kept the crowd solidly entertained with the wit that listeners of his Hollywood Prospectus podcast are familiar with. The panel featured executive producers Joe Weisberg ("soon to be a guest star on The Good Wife") and Joel Fields, and stars Keri Russell (Elizabeth Jennings), Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings), Noah Emmerich (Stan Beeman) and Annet Mahendru (Nina Sergeevna).

The panelists all sported "Commie Con" t-shirts, which was Rhys's idea. "Growing up in a very socialist South Wales, I thought there was a convention called 'Commie Con'".

But like Elizabeth being tortured by Claudia, the panel revealed few hints as to what is in store for the upcoming season.

The cast will return to work on production on Monday.

Fields mentioned that they had spent a lot of time at the end of season two discussing what season three would be about. They forced themselves to put their pencils down and take a break over the summer, and when they got back, they had a lot of ideas percolating.

The show works best when the characters all struggle with the same kind of things everyone struggles with, but on a more heightened, life-and-death level. "We all feel [like] it's life and death in our marriages and in our parenting, but for them, it really is."

Greenwald asked Russell and Rhys about having to play characters who also play different roles when they wear their various disguises on the show. Rhys approaches it as Philip needing to convince the person in front of him. "The audience has to believe that that person can be convinced".

Emmerich took it personally that the writers put Stan through such a rough year. "You live through the imaginary circumstances of your character for those five or six months that you're in production. I've always had a little bit of

has difficulty turning off the switch. The homework is [to] live and see what it feels like to be that character". He and Greenwald pointed out that Stan's high watermark in the series was the pilot. Mahendru pointed out, "It's because NIna wasn't in the pilot".

There will be more scenes of Stan and Philip sharing beers.

The crowd cheered when Mahendru indicated that Nina survives into season three (which had been revealed previously).

Since the show is filmed in NYC, they had to contend with having to shoot during this past year's extremely long, harsh winter ("really worthy of Siberia"). The producers mentioned that as it so happens, the winter of 1982 (when season two took place) was the worst winter in the history of Washington, DC.

The war in Afghanistan will be playing a large part in the Season 3 plot.  Parenting will also be a major theme. The cast revealed that the producers are just as secretive with them. Emmerich joked,

"I still don't know which one is Joe and which one is Joel".

When a questioner asked Keri Russell about how transitioning between different roles, Rhys says that she told him that "she played Felicity & Elizabeth exactly the same except for Elizabeth, she straightens hair and doesn't smile".

All of the cast members except Russell thought their characters would be happy if they survived until the end of the Cold War. Mahendru: "Nina should survive, all the way."

The producers offhandedly mentioned that skipping ahead a few years might be a possibility if the show continued.

Several members of the cast mentioned that the dark & intense material made it easier to keep the mod "light and happy" on set. Rhys said, "when little Jared was lying there bleeding to death for most of the morning, you can imagine the jokes".

Emmerich said that he's sometimes worried about establishing too strong of a personal dynamic with an actor off-screen that it might overshadow the on-screen dynamic.

A questioner asked about the way they research early 80s technology. Weisberg: "I wish I could call it research instead of memory". The older technology makes it easier for them to write situations, since the characters can't just call each other on their cellphones.

They also dropped a tidbit that Pete Townsend wrote music for season two.

A questioner asked the producers if the upcoming parenting theme meant that Nina was pregnant. Rhys: "they both just scribbled notes under the table."

Russell revealed that she and the hair/makeup department have favorite disguises and they name them all. They give all the alter egos elaborate backstories to pass the time in the hair and makeup trailer. Their favorite of Matthew's is "Fernando", the long-haired guy with the mustache. Fernando's voice was stolen from Buzz Lightyear when he goes into Spanish mode.

The season 2 DVD of The Americans will be released on December 16. Season 3 will air on FX in January.

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Dan WicklineAbout Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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