Hi everybody. Thank you for joining our first-ever reddit chat. We have no idea what we're doing so please be kind. If you like spies, especially from the no-longer-existent Soviet Union, or if you are married or have ever been married (or might one day want to be married), or know for sure that you never want to be married or wonder about it, we think you might really enjoy our show. The Americans is about 2 KGB spies living under deep cover in the Washington DC suburbs in 1982, and it premieres tonight at 10 PM on FX.

Ask us any non-classified questions.


Thank you so much for participating in our first-ever Reddit AMA! We are still not exactly sure what happened -- but we think we enjoyed it! We now challenge you to spread the word between now and 10pm. If our ratings jump significantly over last season, we'll do another Reddit chat soon.


Comments: 131 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

brodiemanthe1st16 karma

Is there a standard wig:episode ratio that you guys try to shoot for?

joelfields12 karma

There's no ratio per se, but boy do we like it when the wigs appear. We just found out that Keri thinks she looks like a boy in her wigs.

frozentim15 karma

Such a huge fan of the show, and am so excited for season 2, especially since all the early reviews have been so glowing…My question is, how much backstory do you work out for yourselves before you plot out the stories? For instance, do you find it's important to know things like where Nina comes from, or how Philip was recruited, or does that character history only come up if it's pertinent to the current story?

joelfields11 karma

We plot out some, but a lot of it unfolds as we create the scene work and the story arcs. Sometimes, we have a very specific backstory in mind, but then in a specific episode we actually change the backstory if we can to accommodate something that's happening.

aponce1710 karma

Brooklyn and Queens are definitely not 80s D.C./Virginia, yet, few would watch the show and realize it is shot in New York and the surrounding area. What makes a location suitable for filming (or is required to make a location suitable)? And, what has been one of your favorite places to film so far? You guys do a great job at finding unique and interesting locations!

joelfields6 karma

JOEL: Our locations department works very hard to find the right locations to film the show, then our production designers put an enormous amount of artistry and effort into transforming the places for location and period accuracy, and THEN we often spend a good deal of time and money doing visual effects.

JOE: My favorite spot so far is the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which we said was Rome, I think, in the 1960s. We didn't have to do anything except put a title on the screen that said, Rome, 1960s. It's just a bunch of flowers.

geauxjeaux7 karma

Can you tell us a little more about the opening credits? I think they do a great job of setting the scene of the time period.

joelfields5 karma

We went through so many different approaches to the opening credits. There was a lot of debate about the sequence when it first arrived. Someone called them "distracting and nauseating." We love them. Nate Barr, our composer, wrote the theme -- and received an Emmy nomination for his incredible work.

glassjaw96 karma

At some point, Stan has to figure out that Philip isn't what he seems to be...right?

Also, will we see Stan try to pull himself out of this downward spiral he seems to be on? Or will he just keep shacking up with his smoking hot informant and letting his marriage fall apart?

Get it together, Beeman.

joelfields5 karma

JOEL: First of all, which would you choose? It's unclear based on your question.

JOE: Have you ever tried to pull yourself out of a downward spiral? It's very, very difficult.

Kmart_Elvis5 karma

My girlfriend and I have been addicted to this show since the premiere! We're wondering, since the first season took place all throughout 1981, can we expect series 2 to span all of '82, and then each subsequent season in the corresponding year after that? That would seem to be a very interesting way of time-framing the series. Thanks!

joelfields5 karma

We are sitting in what we call "the vault," the room in which we write our scripts. On the wall is a calendar that starts in January of 82 and on which we have tracked the entire season episode by episode. In our minds we actually know when every moment of every episode takes place. We have no idea whether anyone else will be able to follow it.

crazycoala5 karma

Hey guys, big fan! You've mentioned before that the show is ultimately about a marriage. Can you expand upon that, and why that was an inspiring topic for you?

Also, do you have any recommendations for breaking into the industry? I'm studying film and am very interested in script-writing. Any tips?

joelfields6 karma

JOEL: First of all, we're both married. There's really nothing more interesting than marriage. Spying is pretty interesting, but marriage is very interesting. As one of our writers said early on, everyone is a spy in their own lives.

JOE: I think the main thing is write something great. If you write something great, you can get noticed.

VanceWorley5 karma

1) How do you guys pick the great music for your show?

2) What about season 2 are you most excited about?

3) Have there been any historical inaccuracies that have slipped into The Americans, and do they bother you?

Can't wait for season 2!

joelfields7 karma

We have an astonishingly talented music supervisor, PJ Bloom, who works tirelessly with his team to create the show's period soundtrack. As for historical inaccuracies, we'll never tell -- but we work very hard to avoid them and the ones that creep through drive us crazy.

Here's something that's accurate but shocking -- Al Haig did get a copy of the nuclear football on the day that Ronald Reagan was shot. Do you know how he got it? He asked for it. And they brought him a copy.

peapeapants5 karma

Aside from the Rosenbergs, did you find any real life examples of KGB or CIA spies in your research? Are there any storylines in the show based off real examples?

joelfields14 karma

The whole Martha storyline is based on the fact that KGB illegals actually married unsuspecting secretaries who had access to important intelligence because of the men they worked for. These marriages sometimes lasted for decades without the women knowing they were married to spies. You probably thought we made this stuff up.

triforce285 karma

Love your show. Been waiting for the premiere since last season ended. Andy Greenwald and Alan Sepinwall have said how this season is even better. I can't wait to watch

joelfields8 karma

JOEL: Thank you -- we love this question! Great question! We hope there are more like it!

JOE: This is the best question ever. In fact, it's not a question. But we love it.

HabsBiznatch5 karma

Good evening, I just wanted to say how much I love this show and I've even gotten my whole family into it. It's very rare to find a tv show that is so raw with it's characters and it's writing. I love the chemistry on it.

As for the question, for someone who is interested in this aspect of history, is there any book that helped inspire you?

Also, the fashion addict in me wanted to comment on how amazing the clothes are on the show! Especially Nina's outfits!!

Thank you so much for giving me a new tv obsession that is actually GOOD! :D

joelfields4 karma

We will tell our costume designer Jenny Gering what you said -- she is brilliant. As for books on the subject, perhaps the most interesting are the Metrokhin Files. A KGB archivist stole the entire archives of the KGB and smuggled them out of the country -- they've been published in several volumes. They're about a million pages long, so you have to very committed. But they're fascinating.

luckyorangeduckie4 karma

What has been the reaction from Russians over the portrayal of characters and the Soviet Union on this show? I've always been curious! Also thank you for making such an amazing show! I'm totally excited for tonight! :D

joelfields5 karma

We're curious, too. We've heard some very positive reactions, but not enough for a real sample.

RenegadeNorman4 karma

Hey guys, huge fan of the show (it's pretty much my favorite new show on TV). any chance we'll see the Martha / Clark marriage in jeopardy? not that I hate the pairing or anything, I'm just curious if that'll appear in the season's storyline. i'd think it'd be a pretty interesting plotline to tackle.

joelfields5 karma

Well, they are married, and marriage can be tough.

We sort of feel that their marriage is in a constant state of jeopardy. On the other hand, there's an irony at play this season in that Philip, in trying to work Martha by marrying her as Clark, is boosting her ego -- which is, on some level, good and empowering for her, which may ultimately be threatening to him. Like we said, marriage can be tough.

crazymanc903 karma

Just want to say that I LOVE this show! That being said, what would you say is the funniest thing that has happened on the set? Given the drama and suspense in the show, there has to be something that has lightened the mood!

joelfields7 karma

JOEL: Often, right before the cameras roll, Keri slaps Matthew in the face.

JOE: You think that's funny? I think that's mean.

JOEL: I'm pretty sure it's funny. Everyone laughs. That's my measure.

JOE: Okay, it's funny.

georgley3 karma

What is your favourite episode from season 1?

What is one thing about season 1 that you wish you had done differently?

joelfields7 karma

JOE: I don't know that I have a favorite episode, but I feel very lovingly of episode 109 where Philip and Elizabeth had to -- no spoilers -- deal with Gregory. Also a great Roberta Flack cover of a Bee Gees song in there.

JOEL: I can't pick favorites, but sure, Joe. I'm with you -- as always.

JOE: Joel's eating dinner, and I think he didn't answer that because he wanted to chew. Now he's gonna answer. Watch.

JOEL: Huh?

joelfields9 karma

The problem is, it probably looks like we're typing this, so it makes no sense. But actually Derek is at the keyboard. Once you're a showrunner, you don't have to do your own typing anymore.

joelfields7 karma

JOEL: By the way, it's very hard for me not to put a smiley face at the end of each of these responses.

JOE: Joel always puts a smiley face at the end of everything he writes.

JOEL: Well, not the scripts. But everything else. Because it's good to smile.

JOE: I couldn't wait to hear what was coming after "because," because I've been waiting two years to hear what the answer was.

Mister_Donut3 karma

Phillip and Elizabeth are terrible people who commit murder without a second thought, but they're our heroes. How do make them remain sympathetic to the audience while committing their numerous crimes?

maxwell_stupid4 karma

I wouldn't call them terrible people. They're soldiers. They're doing a job.

joelfields7 karma

Good point, Maxwell! Interestingly, in every episode, we engage in an exercise where we reimagine the story as if the characters were deep-cover CIA operatives operating for the cause of freedom in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. If the story works in that framework, then it works for Philip and Elizabeth. All that said, though they are soldiers doing a job, soldiers have as hard a job as there can possibly be -- and it comes with very painful and challenging moral repercussions.

MattyBlayze3 karma

Great show, guys - my wife and I have fallen in love with it.

It is truly amazing how you have positioned the characters in the show. Much like Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, I find myself identifying at some level with Elizabeth and Phillip,and rooting for them. No real question, and I know this is your intent, but I wanted to share any way.

Any chance we see some additional conflict between the Jennings' and Stan this season?

joelfields5 karma

Thank you! One of the things we love exploring with these characters is their struggle with the moral consequences of what they have to do. We do not see them as antiheroes as they are not sociopaths but rather people deeply committed to a cause that we, on this side of history, might find a hard time fathoming.

Posauce3 karma

Hi huge fan of the show! One of the things I love about this show is that I feel like it stands out and is unique so my question is: How did you come about with the idea for The Americans?

joelfields8 karma

JOE: I didn't! Some people called me and asked me if I wanted to do a show based on all those Russian spies who got arrested in 2010. I said, yes. So here we are. I'm glad I said yes.

glassjaw93 karma

1) There were several significant historical moments that were present during the first season (e.g. the Reagan assassination attempt). Do you have any more of these planned for Season 2 and beyond? Anything you'd particularly like to explore from Philip and Elizabeth's point of view?

2) Can we expect more Margo Martindale? She's awesome.

3) Will we continue to see more of Philip and Elizabeth's lives before they moved to America? Or perhaps in their early days, when the children were younger?

joelfields8 karma

1) The new season will deal with the war in Afghanistan (the Soviet-era war, not the present-day American one), Nicaragua, and stealth technology -- not to mention Intellivision.

2) Margo will be back, and she is as awesome as ever. Her work in comedy has not dulled her dramatic genius.

3) There will be more flashbacks, and more backstory for the characters.

therealfatben3 karma

What made you choose KGB spies rather than any other type during the early 80s?

joelfields4 karma

Was there another type during the 80s?

georgley2 karma

What are some of your favourite songs from the 80s?

joelfields5 karma

JOEL: Listen to the soundtrack and find out!

JOE: I think that's mean.

JOEL: Really?

JOE: Yeah, tell them a song!

JOEL: How about an artist? Peter Gabriel, Pete Townsend, Talking Heads. Loved the music of the period.

JOE: I also like country music a lot. Top 40. Not that hip stuff.

glassjaw92 karma

With the Cold War existing for a finite period of time, have you already mapped out a path for the characters to get to the end of the series? Do you already have an end game in mind?

joelfields6 karma

We have talked a lot about how the series ends and how we might get there, and we will continue to do so. We have learned that "knowing" where the story and characters are going is essential, but so is being open to those stories taking even us in new and unexpected directions.

Bleulobster2 karma

Please no more Martha+Clark sex scenes

joelfields15 karma

What are you talking about? Those are great! Plus which, they're married now.

Kknowsbest2 karma

What is the best advice given to you on your career? Thank you guys!

joelfields8 karma

JOEL: Show up and do the work -- it's very easy to get hung up waiting for the magic of inspiration to strike. But at the beginning, middle, and end of the day, the most important thing is to keep at it.

JOE: I think that's really great advice, but I can tell no one ever gave Joel that advice. It's the advice he would give someone. Here's something my agent said to me: Half this job is about "Hangability." Now -- to this day, I am often surprised by the fact that I think that is true. I am also still shocked by the fact that he was able to make up that word.

JOEL: He (Joe's agent) wasn't talking about this job -- he was talking about being on a writing staff, not running a writing staff. See? We promised this chat would touch on the dynamics of marriage.

JOE: I'm not sure people understand the fact that we think we're married.

JOEL: Not romantically. Professionally. Our actual wives refer to us as our work-spouses.

joelfields5 karma

PS: This isn't a Reddit chat. This is a chat between us! We'll do better...

jakeman5171 karma

I LOVE that Elizabeth is ruthless & unapologetic. How was Keri Russel chosen for such a 'ruthless' role? Although a perfect choice....it would initially seem like a stretch for her...

joelfields6 karma

You don't know her.

Nessie-6 karma

How do you premier a show that's been out for more than a year?

joelfields5 karma

They're referring to the season premiere, not the series premiere. It's our season two premiere tonight on FX at 10pm ET!