Featured Interviews

THE AMERICANS: Matthew Rhys: A “Career Highlight” Playing Philip


Since it’s debut last month, FX’s The Americans has quickly become one of the top dramas of the season – and for good reason. The series’ nuanced storytelling, as well as its talented cast, have helped it secure a place among the television landscape as a show that is pushing the boundaries of quality television.

“Certainly, this is the most diverse part I’ve ever had for sort of playing different parts within one part,” star Matthew Rhys shared during a press call. “To be perfectly honest, landing this part and playing out this season has been, and I say this sincerely, an absolute career high for me.”

Read below for more from Rhys, including a look at what’s in store for the rest of the season.

How will the revelation of Philip finding out that his wife betrayed him play a role in the second half of the season?

“So many things changed, in many ways irreparably, to a degree in that you wonder how he’ll be able to recover with Elizabeth and with the people he worked for. It sort of solidifies and consolidates everything he was beginning to believe, not about her, but certainly about the KGB…it makes for that great pressure, as something now must happen from that. Certainly in the episodes we’re shooting now, I think Philip is in this great transition. It’s like stalemate because he knows he wants to make a move and he wants to do something about it, it’s just he isn’t quite sure how to get out, really.”

Where is your relationship with Elizabeth going? Are we going to any resolution in the first season?

“I don’t think the resolution is quite possible given what they’ve been through and the amount of back and forth, you know, the chess game they play with each other where revelation after revelation has come out, and the amount of betrayal involved.  I don’t think will be resolved overnight and I think that’s sort of the glorious element to it – that it can’t be a quick fix relationship.  There has to be some sort of long road of recovery for it to have any longevity.”

The relationship between Stan and Philip has really developed this season…how does Philip kind of balance that friendship and spying going forward?

“I think he’s a little torn about Stan, to be perfectly honest. Philip does come from a decent moral place in many ways and he has a love for the lifestyle they’ve created.  I think part of that is this sort of white picket idyllic idea of having a best friend in a neighbor. I think he genuinely does like Stan, although he tells Elizabeth it’s good to keep your enemies closer, I think with Stan there is a genuine fondness there. It’s unfortunate that in a way he is manipulating him for information.”

How do you think the recent bonding between Stan and Philip is affecting the already strained marriage of Philip and Elizabeth?

“I think Elizabeth has a great mistrust of Stan and Philip being friends. She regards, obviously, understandably, the fact that he’s an FBI agent as incredibly dangerous and distance is what they should be putting between them. In the multitude of things that’s already wrong with this marriage, that certainly doesn’t help.”

We get the impression that Philip’s commitment to the motherland is kind of wavering. Do you think that Philip would put his children before his country or his country before his children?

“I think where you find him in the first episode is exactly that. I think he’s come to a point in his life where he is no longer defined by his job. As you said, the priority now in his life is his children. I think he’s realized that their job has a shelf life and that the vice is slowly tightening and it’s something they can’t sustain. I think his real ambition in life is to secure the future for his children and for him and Elizabeth, really. I think that’s his super-objective is to make sure that they’re all safe. The only real way to do that is to get out.”

What have been some of your favorite moments from filming?

“I suppose the scenes for me that have been the most satisfying are the boundaries we push emotionally and psychologically as Philip and Elizabeth further push their own relationship in striving for potential or possible relationship. You realize for two people to spend so long together and who are trained to gather, glean, and gain information, they’re incredibly bad communicators with each other. It’s been a slow creep for the two of them in getting to where they are. There is a lot of push and pull in the relationship that sort of sets them back and pushes them forward and sets them back further. It’s those scenes I find most rewarding as you very slowly, and sometimes painfully, chip away at the veneer of what their relationship is.”

Elizabeth has always had Gregory as a confidant and lover over the years, do you think we’ll see a similar confidant and lover come forward for Philip?

“I don’t think so. I think his reaction when he found out about Gregory- it was so hurtful to him that she had lied to him for so long, and he was genuine in his reaction when he found out that although obviously they live this strange lie of a relationship, it was true when he said he never lied to her about anything. He’d always kept it very open.”

Do you think that his feelings when he first arrived in the U.S., that they would change as of now after he’s been in the U.S. for so many years?

“Absolutely.  I think when he first arrived he, like Elizabeth, was as hard-lined as her and they were there for a very specific mandate. I think it’s his time there that’s changed him. I think what’s consolidated that more than anything is the birth of his children.”

The Americans airs Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.

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