Like many people at Slate, I’ve become obsessed with FX’s spy drama The Americans. Set in late-Cold War Washington, D.C., it’s a smart, sexy callback to what we now curiously remember as a more gentle clash of civilizations—a pre-9/11, pre-al-Qaida, pre-Internet, pre–Edward Snowden struggle where the stakes were existential, but the adversary was more fathomable. The Soviet sleeper agents played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys look to the world, and to their FBI neighbor, like dull American travel agents by day. Then they set about undermining the American government by night.
I wanted to know more about how a show with such great writing, acting, and attention to historical detail gets made. And it turned out I had a connection: The show was created by Joe Weisberg, brother of Slate Group chairman Jacob Weisberg, so I wrangled an introduction. I asked Joe whether he’d consider making a companion podcast for Season 3 of The Americans, taking fans like me behind the scenes of how he and his colleagues research, write, perform, and visually recreate this dark, fascinating world of 1980s spycraft. And Joe said yes.
Season 3 kicked off on FX Wednesday night with a wonderfully suspenseful episode called “EST Men.” So Joe, showrunner Joel Fields, and script coordinator Molly Nussbaum sat down on one of their Brooklyn soundstages to talk us through their writing and research process. Over the coming weeks, we’ll talk with some of the show’s actors, prop and set designers, musicians, craftspeople (including those who design all those great disguises), and the other artists who together make The Americans.
We’ll be releasing new podcasts every week, a few hours after each TV episode finishes airing on FX. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, or with our RSS feed. And you’ll find more info about the show at FX’s official site.