The Americans Preview: Matthew Rhys on Challenges Ahead, A United Elizabeth and Philip

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Our favorite Soviet spies, Philip and Elizabeth, are back tonight when The Americans season 2 premieres.

Elizabeth returns home after recovering from being shot by FBI Agent and friend, Stan Beeman. The Jennings marriage is stronger than ever, but will it be able to thrive when their lives are constantly in danger?

Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings) spoke to reporters about the challenges that the Jennings will be facing this season and the conflict between their love of country and the love for their family. Check out edited excerpts from the interview...

Why do you think people find Philip sympathetic even though he's on the "wrong" side?

I think you find this sort of characteristic in those men that you do root for, men and women, it’s the sort of every man. He does have romantic ideals, and as well as materialistic ideals, because he came from very harsh, fiscally challenged place. But I think he longs for the sort of a wife to love and to have those things reciprocated.

His main priority is his children, their future and their safety. And I think he wants, unashamedly, to sign up for the sort of white picket fence life and have those nice things and live out a nice life. I think those are sort of very real, palpable, and obtainable dreams and aspirations of so many people that we’re sort of raised to think that in a way, and Philip has come from an extremity of that, a very harsh place, very difficult place, and there’s a real opportunity to live out a real dream. It’s in front of him, it’s obtainable; he just has to balance it with an incredibly difficult lifestyle.

Now that Elizabeth has come around and loves Philip as much as he loves her, how will jealousy play into their relationship?

You’ve hit the nail on the head of quite a punchy theme for the Jennings this season, which is, I think, dramaturgically fantastic, this other element you bring to the relationship as this new relationship evolves and etc. etc. All of sudden these two people that have fulfilled a very specific mandate all these years about sleeping with people for information suddenly their feelings become real, and the green-eyed monster makes a very rude appearance in their lives and it’s incredibly difficult for them to deal with.

It continues and they struggle, and in that way that in a minor way that relationships, I think, struggle with partners who flirt or there’s insecurity in a relationship. It’s magnified by a million because of what they have to do. So there’s no resolve; it’s certainly an ongoing problem for them, but it’s certainly a very present theme for them this season.

With Philip and Elizabeth attempting a “real marriage” what kind of challenges will that create in their work relationship?

The greatest one we touched on earlier is the more sexual element of their marriage with the honey trapping, the sleeping for information, which we saw a lot of the in the first season. That takes a great toll on their marriage, and plays out in some incredibly the word is probably surprising ways. 

The marriage with Martha, what’s so great is they plant such a beautiful seed of conflict within Elizabeth. Because she’s been this stalwart, this hardline, hard-nosed agent for so long, who’s still incredibly loyal to the cause, she has this great enormous struggle within her where she realizes that she has these feelings for Philip.

And what he’s doing when he is honey trapping and gaining information for the cause, for Mother Russia, it makes her feel terrible and she’s caught between that great place of saying I hate the way this makes me feel and I hate that you have to do it, but it’s for the greater cause. So, as a dramatician with a device it’s rather fantastic, but it certainly takes its toll on the relationship.

Do you see the possibility of a happy ending for the Jennings?

I think they can. I think that was laid down by Philip in the first episode the first season where he presented the defection packages basically saying they could go into witness protection, they could work for the U.S. government, they could be put into hiding, make a lot of money, and live out their days. And I think there’s an element of Philip that still hangs onto that dream, because I think the realization of how sustainable their lives are and how unsafe it’s becoming for the children sort of grows day-by-day. So I think that, in the back of his mind, the happy ever after for Philip is louder than ever.

The Americans season 2 episode 1 airs on Wednesday, February 26 at 10 pm ET on FX.

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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