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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)

Hollywood News Banter 6 MIN, 55 SEC

Matt Belloni, executive editor of the Hollywood Reporter joins guest host Michael Schneider to discuss top entertainment news stories of the week.

  • Now that the battle for Viacom is over, attention turns to its troubled properties, including the film studio Paramount Pictures. After the major flop Ben-Hur, Paramount needs to find a way to turn his company around, likely by betting on successful franchises like Transformers.
  • The ratings are in for the A+E channel Viceland, and there's good news and bad news. In general the numbers are down. There are only half as many viewers from what the channel was getting when it was previously H2, a History channel offshoot. But, those viewers who are watching are much younger than before, around the age of 40. Those younger viewers drive more advertising.
  • Actress and comedian Leslie Jones has endured horrific abuse on social media before. Now, her personal website has been hacked, and private information exposed. Celebrities are constantly being told they need to have a strong social media presence, but that also makes them a target for abusive trolls. Jones' case is especially disturbing because she has been targeted because of her gender and race.

Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter (@THRMattBelloni)

Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg: The Americans 20 MIN, 34 SEC

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.

Joel Fields, playwright, television writer and producer (@joel_fields)
Joe Weisberg, writer and producer (@joeweisberg)

Listen to a longer conversation with Weisberg and Fields on KCRW's 'The Spin-off'


Michael Schneider

Kaitlin Parker

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