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Kara’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2013: The Americans’ Keri Russell 

Photo Credit: FX
Photo Credit: FX

Complex, well-written characters are my kryptonite. I love them, but they might eventually be the death of me. Hmm, that was dramatic. But I can’t get enough of damaged people. I can’t get enough of actors brining nuance and pathos and humanity to these roles. They make me suspend my disbelief. They make me believe. They make me live in their world and root for these people. They make me care about television in a whole new way. This year Keri Russell blew me away as Elizabeth Jennings in FX’s The Americans. 

I remember seeing promos for this show before it premiered. They were so striking and so interesting. I knew the show was about 80s era Soviet spies but, quite frankly, the show had me at Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (and when I started watching Noah Emmerich and later Margo Martindale). At that time I didn’t really care what the show was about. I’d seen Keri and Matthew’s previous work and wanted to know how they’d fare in this (very) sexy and (very) serious show. And I wasn’t let down for even one moment. I mean, Keri Russell managed to make mom jeans and 80s hair look good? That’s a huge accomplishment. But beyond the surface stuff, all the actors made me invest in this story about espionage and revenge and love.

Keri Russell is a standout in a very, very strong cast for a few reasons. The first is her steely resolve as a fiercely loyal Russian spy. I mean, you can see how much she believes in what she’s doing; she makes for a very good and very loyal solider. The second is her ability to be a chameleon, to assume any form of camouflage. She’s able to hide in plain sight. She’s able to slip in and out of all these personas to get the intel she needs. It makes it that much more interesting to see who she really is – a woman struggling to live some form of the American dream despite it all. She has these children that she’s trying to raise right, even if she seems to have almost no maternal instinct. She’s attempting to be a good neighbor to avoid raising suspicion, but also because that’s what you did in the suburbs in the 80s (and today too, I’d guess. I don’t know. I don’t live in the ‘burbs). She’s trying (and failing) not to fall in love with her husband, even tough she knows he’s in love with her. She’s trying to stay on mission while her life is unfolding – and possibly unraveling – around her.

I’ve been a fan of Keri Russell since Felicity and it’s been a lot of fun to see her mature as an actress. She’s always had that something about her that makes me root for her, no matter the role. So for season 2 of The Americans, I’m looking forward to the continued evolution of the Jennings’ marriage, how both Claudia/Grannie and Stan figure into their lives, and if and how they continue to appear to remain loyal to the KGB.

Season 2 of The Americans premieres Wednesday, February 26th at 10 pm on FX.

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