Matthew Rhys on ‘The Americans’: “Philip Is In This Great Transition"

One of the most fascinating TV marriages right now is between Philip and Elizabeth on FX’s The Americans. Sure, they’re KGB spies in the 1980s trying to bring down the Americans while posing as an American couple, but there’s a real love story there.

If you’re all caught up with the latest episode, you might want to check out some interesting tidbits from Matthew Rhys, who plays Philip, after a recent conference call with reporters. He discusses the marriage, Philip’s frame of mind and more.

The highlights are below. The Americans airs on Wednesday at 10 pm ET on FX.

On how his character has changed since the KGB captured him and his wife in a previous episode and tortured them to find out if they were moles. “So many things changed, in many ways irreparably, to a degree in that you wonder a) how he’ll be able to recover with Elizabeth and indeed 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 anyway. 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.”

On who his character might choose first: his children or the Soviet Union. “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. His job no longer defines him and 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.”

On his character’s friendship with his neighbor, Stan from the FBI. “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 … I’m hoping they go on a fishing trip and fall in love, to be honest.”

On who Philip, his character, would shoot, if he had one bullet and could choose between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. “I’m not sure. I think it would probably— Oh, God, that’s an incredible question for a number of reasons. I think where we meet Philip, he has this great capacity for violence and murder, but I think in his heart he is a good guy. I think seeing as Mikhail did more, a little to a degree for that movement with Perestroika and Glasnost, he’d probably shoot Reagan, I think.”

On what he can tease about the season finale. “If I had to choose, I think for the finale would possibly be that— Oh, tease, oh, God no. I don’t know anything about the finale. We’re the last people they tell … I don’t know anything about the finale as of yet.”

And finally, on whether or not he’s fluent in Russian in real life. “I was fluent before I took the part, funnily enough. No, I wasn’t at all. I’m being scoffed at by my publicist because she is actually fluent, born and raised in Russia, funnily enough. No, I wasn’t. You will, in fact, unfortunately hear me butcher the beautiful language of Russian in an upcoming episode. It’s been a little bit of a linguistic struggle for me.”