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    27 Things You Might Not Know About "The Americans"

    "Pretty much like reality, but of course without the murders and the wigs." (Warning: spoilers through Season 4!)

    1. The show is based on a real-life illegal spy program.

    Emmanuel Dunand/AFP / Getty Images

    The FBI busted a Russian espionage ring in 2010 and expelled 10 Russian spies, including a couple who raised their two sons to believe they were Canadian.

    2. There were actual marriages like the one between Martha and "Clark."

    FX / Via

    To get information, agents of the East German Stasi seduced and sometimes even married West German women who worked as secretaries in government offices.

    3. The C.I.A. has to approve all the scripts.

    Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

    Series creator Joe Weisberg (left) worked for the C.I.A. in the early 1990s, and like all former agency employees, has to submit anything he writes about intelligence to the C.I.A. Publications Review Board to make sure it doesn't include classified information.

    4. Real-life spying is way more boring than it looks on the show.

    FX / Via

    "Our spies are probably busier than any spies in the actual history of espionage," Weisberg told NPR. "Fictional spies have to stay very, very busy in order to keep people entertained."

    5. One of the Russian ex-spy couples who inspired the show agree it nails the emotional elements of deep-cover espionage.

    View this video on YouTube

    “The result looks pretty much like reality, but of course without the murders and the wigs," Andrei Bezrukov, who lived undercover in the U.S. as the Canadian "Donald Heathfield," told a Russian newspaper. "My wife Elena and I didn’t expect that the American creators of the series would want and be able to show the characters of the agents so deeply and impartially, even with sympathy."

    (You can hear Bezrukov's muted, difficult-to-place, but definitely not Canadian accent in this video — he's on the right.)

    6. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, who play married KGB officers Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, are a couple offscreen too.

    Ron Sachs / Getty Images

    Their son Sam was born earlier this year.

    7. Russell's pregnancy required some creative props while shooting Season 4.

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    "We justified it, like, 'My mind is full of so many things, and I’m so worried that I just keep my coat on, even in the bedroom,'" she told the New York Times. "I held a lot of giant salad bowls."

    8. Russell loves subverting gender stereotypes as the icy, die-hard Soviet patriot formerly known as Nadezhda.

    FX / Via

    "Everything we see as a woman is that you're supposed to be loving and nurturing," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "Elizabeth believes in what she has to do and it's OK that there's another parent at home who's a little more touchy-feely. I know it's not always cozy, perfect parenting, but I also think it's real."

    9. Matthew Rhys is a Welshman playing a Russian pretending to be an American, and his real accent is charming AF.

    10. Welsh was his first language.

    View this video on YouTube

    "There’s no doubt it has enormously enriched my skill set as an actor," he told The Guardian. "It gives another perspective on language as a whole and I enjoy the detective work of etymology when you see the crossovers in other languages."

    11. Alison Wright, who plays (poor!) Martha, is also doing an American accent — she's from the north of England.

    Alison Wright / Via

    You can catch the Sunderland native in the forthcoming Amazon series Sneaky Pete, along with Margo Martindale, who plays Claudia.

    12. And we ~might~ get to see Martha again in Season 5.

    FX / Via

    “Despite this horrible, traumatic thing that happened to Martha, in our view … she also sort of gained some strength and grew in a lot of very powerful, interesting, and important ways,” Weisberg said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “So, if you ask us … she has some potential to survive and possibly thrive [in the Soviet Union].” He and his co-showrunner Joel Fields wouldn't say more beyond that, but in a Facebook Live discussion, they later confirmed that Martha is still alive.

    13. All the Russian characters are played by Russian-speaking actors.

    Annet Mahendru / Via

    The series has the meatiest Russian-speaking roles ever seen on American television, so it's basically a dream job.

    14. The Russian dialogue is written first in English and then translated.

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    Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen does the translations.

    15. The showrunners actually have no idea what the actors are saying during the Russian scenes.

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    "Even if we were to find out that a big scam had been pulled on us and these were not Russian speakers, and it was a big practical joke and it was all gibberish," Fields said on Slate's TV Club Insider podcast, "it just makes the show and the characters feel more real."

    16. Annet Mahendru, who played Nina, speaks six languages.

    Annet Mahendru / Via

    Born to a Russian mother and an Indian father, Mahendru speaks Russian, Hindi, English, German, Farsi and French. Her resume also lists "wood breaking," "tactical black," "shooting" and "nunchucks" as skills, which kind of makes you wonder if she might be a spy IRL.

    17. Costa Ronin, who plays Oleg, auditioned for the show after seeing a billboard while he was driving around LA.

    С 23-го февраля вас, защитники отечества #TheAmericans #TheAmericansFX

    "How can I not be on this show?" Ronin recalled telling his manager. He grew up in Kaliningrad, Russia, moved to New Zealand as a teen and was cast in The Americans after an intense bilingual audition and chemistry read with Mahendru.

    18. Noah Emmerich (FBI agent Stan Beeman) recently romanced another Nina in Aziz Ansari's Netflix series Master of None.

    In that show, he played the husband of a food critic named Nina (Claire Danes) who has an affair with Ansari's character. You might also recognize him from 1998's The Truman Show.

    19. Nina was originally supposed to have just a two-episode arc.

    Annet Mahendru / Via

    Fields told BuzzFeed News that they expanded the role due to Mahendru's "powerful" performance, but in the end, "we really knew when she got on that plane a couple seasons ago that there would be no way for her to come back." (RIP, Nina Sergeevna. You deserved better.)

    20. Maximiliano Hernández, who played FBI agent Chris Amador, knew his character was going to be killed several episodes before it happened.

    FX / Via

    "They didn’t want me to tell anyone but I told them that they had to tell Noah [Emmerich, who plays Agent Beeman]," Hernández told 'Listen, Noah is a friend of mine and he’s a friend on stage; he and I have worked together in other movies and he plays my partner. He should know.'" (You deserved better too, Agent Amador.)

    21. The spy gadgets used (as well as zillions of other details on the show, from vintage ads to the air dates of 1980s TV programs) are historically accurate.

    KGB LILLIPUT, recorded 90 hours on strip of wire, listening in on #theamericans, Season 3, January. @theamericansfx

    Spycraft expert H. Keith Melton, co-founder of the International Spy Museum, advises on espionage techniques and has lent out items from his collection to be used on the show.

    22. The disguises used on the show have names and backstories of their own.

    FX / Via

    "There’s so much tedium on a set that you come up with these stories to amuse yourself,” Rhys told the Huffington Post. Take "Fernando," one of his favorite alter-egos. “I would speak with a heavy, sibilant ‘S’ and a Spanish accent when I was dressed as this guy, and all the girls seemed to love him," Rhys said. "We came up with this idea that he’s a flamenco teacher in Pasadena and a hit man on the side.”

    23. Some of the props play multiple roles.

    Annet Mahendru / Via

    “Sometimes, Keri and Matthew share wigs, glasses and hats,” Peg Schierholz, who oversees hair for the show, told The Washington Post. For example, the wig Russell wears as Jennifer, Clark's sister, is a modified version of Clark's stunt double wig.

    24. There's a Felicity wig on set, though it hasn't gotten any screen time yet.

    Michael Ausiello / Via

    Most of the cast and crew have tried it on, including Rhys, who's never actually watched the show. Will Russell ever revisit her old 'do as Elizabeth Jennings? "Felicity as a killer, I’m not sure that people really want to see that," Schierholz told The Wire.

    25. Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati, the teen actors who play the Jennings kids, just wanna do some spying already.

    Holly Taylor / Via

    “I think Keidrich would definitely love to hop right in and be a spy tomorrow. He and I have been saying that since the first day,” Taylor told the New York Post. Maybe that Felicity wig will finally make its screen debut on Henry in Season 5?

    26. The show (finally!) got nominated for the 2016 Emmys in the Outstanding Drama Series, Best Drama Actor and Best Drama Actress categories, and the stars' reactions are pretty darn sweet.


    Margo Martindale (Claudia) has been nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for each season of The Americans and took home the award in 2015. She scored her first Emmy in 2011 for her work on another FX series, Justified.

    27. Martindale and Tony Award winner Frank Langella (Gabriel) will be back as the Jennings' KGB handlers in Season 5.

    FX / Via

    Weisberg and Fields (dubbed "the Js" by the cast and crew) also recently spilled that Henry will become "more and more part of the story," the KGB's designs on Paige "will finally come to a boil" and that things between the Jennings family and Agent Beeman will "get more suspicious, but in an unexpected way."

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