It’s been ten years since the hit FX show “The Americans” premiered, and co-creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisburg sat down with the City Cast DC podcast to chat about the show’s success, its accuracy, and its homage to D.C.
Where did the inspiration for the show come from?
Joe: "In 2010, a group of Russian illegal spies — illegals, just like [the main characters] Philip and Elizabeth — were arrested by the FBI and it was a big news story. And I got a call from some producers who said, ‘Do you think there's a show in this?’ And my kind of immediate reaction was, not really, I mean, who cares about Russian spies in the U.S. in 2010? But then I decided to put it back in the Cold War and suddenly it got interesting, but it was really very much a pulled outta the headlines thing."
The show is set in D.C., but almost entirely filmed in Brooklyn. How did you pull that off?
Joel: "We'd shoot the scene in New York. We'd then send the crew to D.C. to shoot the background. But then, there was a next step in the process, which was once we figured out how the background was gonna be laid in, the footage that had been shot in D.C. had to be researched. And then all of the landmarks had to be reconstructed with digital effects to take them back to what they would've looked like back in the ‘80s. So buildings that were new had to be removed. Buildings that were old had to be replaced.
When I think about it though, some of the fun moments were finding, for example, an actual pizza parlor that they would've had takeout from."
Joe: "And Jhoon Rhee Karate had commercials on TV all over the D.C. area, so we included that kind of artifact."
What’s been the response? Do people think you authentically captured 1980s D.C.?
Joe: "We got a lot of responses from people about creating D.C. in Brooklyn. And I think almost all the ones from people in D.C. were very positive. Oh, this really worked, this really looked like our home city. But people in Brooklyn were like, I know that corner. That's Brooklyn. You're not fooling me."