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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Americans‘ season 3 episode, “Stingers.”]
A day after FX’s The Americans was renewed for a fourth season, the spy drama delivered a shocker of an episode.
Phillip and Elizabeth (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) finally told their 15-year-old daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), the truth about who they are: Russian spies.
Despite wanting to recruit her daughter to the KGB, Elizabeth wasn’t the one who initiated the conversation. In an unexpected turn of events, it was Paige who confronted her parents.
“Do you guys love me?” she asked one night after her mom and dad returned from a mission. “Then tell me the truth … I don’t care what it is. If you love me, if you really love me, then just please tell me,” she begged them.
The strange phone calls, late nights out and lack of extended family around built to make Paige suspicious about her parents’ travel agent cover. But nothing could prepare her for what she’d find out.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Taylor to unpack the scene, talk about why the timing was perfect and discuss the changes ahead for her character now that she knows the truth about her parents. (Hint: she’s hoping Paige joins the KGB.)
Did showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields tip you off to the scene or was it a complete surprise? What was your reaction when you found out?
They didn’t. I found out when they sent the script to everyone, so I didn’t really have a heads up or anything. They just dropped it in front of me, but I was so excited about it. I was speechless when I read that scene because it was in the middle of the episode. It’s not the end of the season. That could have been news that the writers would decide to drop on the season finale. I wasn’t expecting it to happen where or how it did. I thought it was so awesome how they did that, and how casual it was. And also just that fact that it’s been Elizabeth’s goal the whole season to try and tell Paige what she does, but then she stutters and it ends up being Phillip who actually tells Paige. I think it’s a really complex, intense scene. There was a lot of thought put into it.
Were you able to discuss the development with your co-stars beforehand?
We rehearsed the scene two days before we actually shot it, just to make sure that everyone was on the same page and we had it all organized. We did it the best we possibly could to make it as real as we possibly could — and that way everyone could have some time to digest it and everyone could gather their thoughts. We were all really pleased with how it came out.
Presumably you’ve been waiting for a very long time for your character to figure out the truth about her parents. Did it come as a relief?
I know that my character has been waiting so long to actually find out. And I, as Holly, was dying for Paige to find out. It’s almost nice that it’s finally all out on the table. It was kind of like a big relief for everyone, and now it’s just a matter of what Paige is going to do with that information and what are her parents going to do with it. It leads into a whole other conflict.
Paige becomes very introspective when she finds out. What do you think is going on in her head through the rest of the episode?
There is so much going through Paige’s mind. For so long now, she’s been trying to find out what her parents are hiding from her. What could possibly be so bad that they’re constantly sneaking around with a hidden agenda? She definitely wasn’t expecting this news. She came up with so many other theories. Are they drug dealers? Is she adopted? But she would have never guessed that they were Russian spies. So to hear that is such a huge, huge shock for her. Now she has to figure out what they do, why they do it and how they do it. There’s so many questions to ask.
What’s in store for Paige in the upcoming episodes this season?
In the next few episodes — and even in the next episode — you’ll see Paige’s emotional journey. You’ll get to see how everyone in the family is coping with this new aspect of their life. Elizabeth has wanted Paige to know, but she didn’t really think about the consequences of how she would react and how she would treat her parents. You’ll get to see how it really affects everyone in the family in a large way. There’s so many different emotions that Paige feels and she has no one to take them out on because she can’t go to anyone with this information right now, and she doesn’t really feel like she can trust her parents either. It’s not easy to cope with it all.
When did you expect the revelation to happen, if not in this episode?
I thought it was going to be later, just because it’s such a huge deal. I thought that they would have it happen in the season finale and there would be a huge cliffhanger and everyone would want to come for the next season. I was even more excited that it happened earlier. I thought it was awesome the way they placed it because I don’t think a lot of people are going to be expecting it.
It was such a simple confrontation too.
Yeah, that’s what’s so crazy about it. Elizabeth went out of her way to take Paige to the ghetto, to tell her about Gregory and what she does. Then their way of telling her is them just being in the kitchen and Paige confronting them about it, just dropping it there on the kitchen table. And there are so many ways that we could have played Paige reacting to this scenario. We tried a lot of different things, just to make sure that we had options for how they wanted to play it.
What were some of the alternative options?
We did options where Paige was more interested and not so defective when they first tell her, and then we did ones where she was angrier. Anyone in that situation would react differently, so we were just trying to find what felt more real for the Jennings family.
Did you know which cut they were going to go with?
No, I didn’t. There’s still stuff that we shot for the season finale a few different ways and even I don’t know how it’s going to work out. When I watch the episode, everything is sort of a surprise for me, just as it is with everyone else watching. I watch on Wednesday nights because I don’t get to see the episodes before, and I tweet with people sometimes. I try to bounce off of other peoples’ reactions.
What are the chances that Paige will join the KGB?
One of my goals for my character is to become a spy. It would be so much fun and I think it’d be cool if that was sort of their family business in a really weird way. I don’t know what branch or aspect of the spy world Paige would be a part of. There’s so many aspects of what Phillip and Elizabeth do, as far as if she would be involved in actual fighting and physical activity, or if she would be apart of a government branch or something. There’s so many different possibilities.
Perhaps Paige knowing the truth about her parents could lead to a better relationship with them.
Yeah, of course. Her parents are just as passionate about things as she is, and she could share that passion to work together and bond.
What did you think of the big reveal? Sound off in the comments below. The Americans airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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