For 'The Americans' showrunners, collaboration is key
Writer-producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields had never even met before they were teamed up to work on the FX spy series The Americans. What started as a blind date, of sorts, led to a creative friendship and one of the most critically acclaimed dramas on cable. Now Fields and Weisberg, as well as the stars of their show, are Emmy nominated for the series' fourth season.
When executive producers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields first met and started working on the FX series The Americans, they were shocked at the similarities in their working styles and creative vision. They have quite different backgrounds -- Weisberg worked for the CIA and Fields is a playwright who wrote dozens of TV movies. They say the success of the show comes from their ability to be open to ideas, both from each other, and the actors, directors, casting pros, wardrobe designers, location scouts and even Russian consultants who work on The Americans.
Photo: (L-R) Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields. (Jeffrey Neira/FX)
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The FX series The Americans centers around Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a married couple who appear to be living an idyllic 1980's suburban life outside of Washington DC.
In reality, the Jennings are not American at all. They're Russian spies deep under cover, so committed to appearing like an all-American family that they've had two children who, at the beginning of the series, have no clue what their parents really do for work.
The Americans recently wrapped up its fourth season on FX, and throughout the years, tensions at the Jennings residence continue to mount as their kids get older and their operations require increasingly risky antics.
Both Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, who play Elizabeth and Philip, scored Emmy nominations this year -- their first for The Americans, after a multitude of cries from critics.
Showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields are also Emmy nominees. They're up for Outstanding Drama Series and for writing as well.
Weisberg created the show, and Fields has been on board as a writer-producer since the very beginning. They're now both executive producers who say they have eerily similar writing habits -- plus they're good friends -- no easy feat when you spend hours upon hours working together. It was The Americans that brought them together, before working on the show, they had never even met.
Both already had experience in television at the time The Americans began, but in earlier years, Weisberg actually was in the CIA, then published two novels, and Fields wrote dozens of TV movies when they were at their height in the late 1980's and early 90's.
Fields and Weisberg tell us that even though they have a strong vision for The Americans, they're open to collaboration, and that's what's helped the show to succeed. They take us through some examples, from head of FX John Landgraf picking Keri Russell's name from a casting list, to the people who help them find actors who speak Russian, to production consultants who make sure their renderings of 1980's parks in Moscow look spot on.