'The Americans' Team Teases "Manic" Series Finale

Showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg reveal why the sixth and final season of FX's Cold War spy drama jumps forward by three years.
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Joe Weisberg, Noah Emmerich, Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and Joel Fields at the 'Americans' premiere earlier this month

The first episode of The Americans' sixth and final season hasn't even aired, but fans of the critically acclaimed FX series are already eager to find out how the Cold War spy drama will end.

Like good veteran showrunners, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg were tight-lipped about specific plot points for the series' remaining 10 episodes when they spoke to The Hollywood Reporter at The Americans' sixth-season premiere in New York earlier this month.

But they did reveal some details about the setting of one of the show's final scenes, recalling the experience of watching production on the final episode to a packed auditorium at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.

"The filming of the end of The Americans," as Weisberg called it, took place in a warehouse in Brooklyn in early March, where the ground was made to look like it was covered in snow and a green screen was set up to feature a different backdrop.

"We can't tell you what happened next because that would be a really big spoiler," Fields said. But in an extensive introduction that praised the show's hardworking cast and crew, he did reveal that the camera and grip departments worked together to swing a light back and forth over the windshield of a car to look like other cars were passing by in the opposite direction, and the props department used a plank to shake the car so it looked like it was moving.

The next day, Weisberg said, the crew took down the sets for the house where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys' Elizabeth and Philip Jennings lived, as well as the FBI offices. Executive producer Chris Long also revealed that (perhaps for a different scene) The Americans team "ended season six the same way as season five — in Staten Island at 4 a.m. in a freaking blizzard."

As for the experience of filming the final episode, Fields told THR on the red carpet before the premiere, "It was very emotional and very powerful. And yet we're very, very in denial on that this experience of making the show is over, and this is protecting us from the full emotional experience."

For their part, Russell and Rhys had different opinions about the length and speed of their last bit of filming, describing working on the last episode as "long" and "fast," respectively. Rhys then explained how it could be both.

"The pace of it was manic," he said. "It took much longer than we normally take to shoot, but the pace of it was like it was an ambitious feature film."

As for whether the finale would be open-ended or wrap things up, Weisberg said, "We didn't have a philosophy about that. We really didn't. Our philosophy was how would this story best conclude, how would Philip and Elizabeth — what happened to them? That was more important to us."

As fans try to use those clues to try to figure out how the series ends, as they watch the season premiere, airing March 28, they'll already be confronted with another mystery: What happened between the end of season five and the beginning of season six?

Indeed, as has been reported, the final season begins with a three-year time jump, with viewers quickly discovering what the Jennings and their FBI agent neighbor, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), are up to now.

Weisberg said the reasoning behind the shift forward was twofold.

"We wanted to get to 1987 because that's when perestroika and glasnost were kicking in, which, if the Soviet Union was reforming, that was going to create some problems between Philip and Elizabeth, who are not going to feel the same way about it," he told THR. "It also gave us three years in which Philip wasn't spying anymore, which meant that their marriage was going to have a lot of trouble from that. So it gave us two different reasons why their marriage was going to be under pressure."

While Philip is no longer spying, trailers for the new season have hinted that the Jennings' daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) has joined the family business. As for what else Paige has been up to in the three years between seasons, Taylor said the writers gave her "a vague idea."

"She's in college," Taylor said of Paige in season six. "She's had a lot of growth this year; she's more confident, like, comfortable within herself, doesn't really care what other people think, and that gives you a lot to work with."

Meanwhile, at the FBI, while Beeman said in the season five finale that he wanted to leave the counterintelligence division, his former partner, Dennis Aderholt (Brandon J. Dirden), is "still committed to being the most effective agent at the bureau," Dirden said.

"He gets a promotion in the counterintelligence division," he added. "It's a grind, so I think I can definitely understand why [Stan] wanted a reprieve and wanted to leave the division. It's taxing, and it doesn't seem like there's a lot of payoff all the time, and there are a lot of casualties. But Aderholt is a guy who doesn't wear easily. He stays the course, and it pays off. There's a real admirable quality about him that he wants to finish whatever he starts, and he wants to be effective in that position."

As for Stan's personal life, Fields and Weisberg were quick to caution that even after three years, Philip's suspicion about Stan's spouse, Renee (Laurie Holden), hasn't necessarily been put to rest.

"Stand by," said Fields.

Weisberg offered, "Why end a story if you don't have to?"

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