'The Americans' Could End After Fifth or Sixth Season, Says Exec Producer

"If you were to think of it as a three-act story structure, it feels like we’re coming toward the end of the second act," says Joel Fields.
Patrick Harbon/FX
'The Americans'

The pressure is building on The Americans.

When the FX spy drama returns for a fourth season in March, it will largely focus on the threat of bioweapons and spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings' (stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) big secret getting out. Executive producer Joel Fields, on hand at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to promote the series, suggested that he and creator Joe Weisberg are about two-thirds of the way through the story they want to tell.

Fields acknowledged that he isn’t sure how long the series will run. “What we do know is that if you were to think of it as a three-act story structure, it feels like we’re coming toward the end of the second act. Whether it takes a fifth season or a sixth or fifth season to tell the rest of that story, we’ll discover as we start to dig into next season’s work,” he said, adding later in the panel: “I really don’t have an answer about how many seasons except that we’ll do what’s right for the storytelling and we always seem to surprise ourselves.”

Rhys hinted that the upcoming season will start to bring parts of the previous seasons together and offer a number of surprises. “The payoff of having four seasons is that you can start planting these ticking bombs with the knowledge that, sooner or later, they will go off,” he said. “With each season, the intensity increases. For Phillip, it becomes a quest for survival. His goal has become more narrow and pure in that he want his family to be OK.”

Russell echoed Rhys’ comments about the building pressure. “This season has really been about opening Elizabeth’s perspective, and it’s a lot about the emotional cost that all these choices over the last three years has had on her,” said the actress, whose character will run a longer operation over the course of this season that Fields insisted will challenge in new ways. “There is also a bigger sensitivity to the fragility of the family this season.”

Fields also noted that Russell’s pregnancy hasn't affected the story at all (they’re currently shooting episode eight of 13 in New York). “We haven’t made any changes,” he said, with Rhys adding in jest, “She's now terribly effective with a blowdart in a sitting position from 12 feet.”

Holly Taylor, who plays the Jennings' daughter, Paige, will continue to play a pivotal role in the drama moving forward. “I was hoping that if Paige ever found out that she’d be put into a wig straight away. That was my dream,” she joked about finding out that her parents are Russian spies and not travel agents. Taylor added that she understood why her character called her pastor to tell him the news: “When you think about it realistically, if any teenager was in that position and found out a huge secret like that, what would you do? No one can keep that all in. Her whole life is a lie, so I understand her actions.”

For her part, Phillip's "second wife" Martha (Alison Wright) is still very much trying to figure out how she’s going to deal with the new information about her husband. Last season, Phillip showed up to her apartment not in disguise as his alter ego Clark for the first time (“I was just running late that day and that was just how that scene turned out,” joked Rhys on stage.) Said Wright of what can be expected of her character: “She’s still living in the grey area. We don’t know what she thinks about it and what she’ll do moving forward.”

As for whether they’ll be more disguises for Phillip and Elizabeth this season? “There’s a closet of wigs and it hasn’t gone anywhere,” quipped Fields.

The Americans will return March 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.