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The series finale of FX’s Cold War drama The Americans was full of emotional moments, including a tense face-off between Russian spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) and their FBI agent neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who’d just learned the true identity of his friends.
But watching the final episode of the show with an audience in L.A. at an event earlier this year, Rhys was surprised to hear chuckling near the end of the long scene.
“There was a big laugh at a particular moment that I didn’t think was comedic at all, and it was a real shock,” Rhys tells The Hollywood Reporter.
As for what prompted the giggling, apparently it was his line referencing the seminars he and Stan had attended: “I wish you’d stayed with me at EST. You might know what to do here.”
Rhys says, “It was weird because in your head when you build up these moments, there’s been such a well-laid map – the foundations have been so huge and everything leading to that makes a lot of sense to you and lands in a very specific place.”
Despite his ability to generate unintentional laughs, Rhys is up for his third best drama actor nomination for his work on The Americans.
He has fond feelings for all of his colleagues on the recently wrapped six-season series, saying he’d work with anyone from the show again — except for the FBI’s mail robot, which Rhys calls, “one of the most unreliable actors I’ve ever worked with.”
“It kept breaking down,” Rhys says of the machine. “You didn’t know what the fuck it would do!”
Rhys spoke to THR about the challenges of ending The Americans, future roles and the Emmy category he’d like to see.
You’re nominated for the third time for the show, but does the fact that it’s for the final season make it more special?
To be recognized feels good because I think everyone strove at the end for a great finish. There was no shark-jumping or shootouts.
Was there a particularly challenging scene in this final season?
I think the hardest one to land was with Paige (Holly Taylor), and we have that [exchange that’s essentially], “We’ve got no time to talk but we’re leaving the country and we’re leaving your brother here.” It’s a very difficult one to land in a real sense that feels genuine and sincere, heartfelt but rushed. The external circumstances really drive and force something. You’re also worrying that the weight of what you’re landing actually is landing.
What sort of roles are you looking for going forward?
My approach has always been the same from day one, where I look for a story and a character that appeals to me, that I’m interested in, that I want to see, that I feel is challenging. After doing a long-running TV series, I was hungry to do something that was completely different than Philip Jennings. And I was fortunate enough to find that in the BBC in Northern Ireland. I’m doing a period piece in the Victorian era with Jamie Dornan. I’m playing this Protestant landowner with a lot of familial and political and religious problems.
You’re also doing a Mr. Rogers movie with Tom Hanks.
Yes! Again, something very different, and the opportunity to work with Tom was a huge draw. The script was incredible.
Who would you most like to chat up at an Emmy afterparty?
Ed Harris. [I’d want to talk to him about] his career, basically; Pollock; State of Grace; any number of things. Just to meet one of your heroes.
There ought to be an Emmy category for …
Best genuine onscreen laugh or best drunk acting — someone who does drunk incredibly realistically. This is all the stuff that I find incredibly hard to do. There should be an award for that.
Which member of your cast is best suited to run for office?
Oh, my God, Noah Emmerich, without question! In fact, Noah Emmerich should be in office. He should be a senator, or I would happily have him as the president of the United States of America. He’s extremely intelligent, with this incredible old soul philosophy on the world and how it should be. And he has such a sense of justice and right and wrong.
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