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The Americans’ Annet Mahendru Talks Nina’s Fate and More [+ “Open House” Preview] 

Photo Credit: James Minchin/FX
Photo Credit: James Minchin/FX

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

A lot of us thought Annet Mahendru‘s Nina Krilova was a goner at the end of season 2. But instead of running away, as Stan urged, she decided to stay and face the consequences of her betrayal. Now she’s serving out her sentence in a Russian prison, but her fate is still very much up on the air. What can we expect for Nina this season and will Oleg be able to help her in any way? TV Goodness participated in a press call with Annet yesterday and she answered these questions and more.

The scripts are so sharply written. Do the twists and turns still surprise you? And what was your initial reaction to getting the script for the finale of last season?

Annet Mahendru:
“They always surprise me. It’s nice that way. I always know that there’s something crazy happening to Nina. There always is, but I never know what. The world is always moving and it’s such a thrill for me as an artist.

When I got the finale, I, too, was hopeful. Stan was in the car and she wasn’t alone yet. She wasn’t on the plane yet. There was a lot of possibility. Then you wait for the next one and then you find out that you’re in prison.”

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FX
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

It was a big blow to see Nina get sent back to Russia at the end of last season. What do you think was going on in her head, other than betrayal from Stan? Do you think there was any relief that it was finally over, that she didn’t have to play both sides anymore?

Annet: “Yes. She is definitely going to face her own fate and she’s decided to do it. She could have been exfiltrated. We had the car ready for her. Stan already had the money for her and told her to run. I think she’s just going to face whatever it is.”

Obviously, in isolation, Nina is playing a bit of a different role this season. Can you talk a little bit about what’s in store for Nina in the coming episodes?

Annet: “A lot of isolation. It’s finding your way to survive. She’s still tough, she’s still Nina but without all the ways she usually has to survive. It’s a really, really scary time and you’re really just facing yourself. That’s it.”

Has it surprised you that your character has stayed alive as long as she has? And is there been any point where you’re like, this has got to be the end for Nina?

Annet: “Yes, the finale of season 2. I remember I hadn’t gotten the script yet and things were looking really bad. Nina knew from the start that it would be impossible to turn Stan. And yet she did what she could and then comes to know he’s unturnable. I was just waiting for the script and then I get a phone call from Joe and Joel and I was like, this is deep, is this the you’re going to die? Oh, great. And they’re like, no.

I live for the story and sure it’s going to, there’s an aspect that, oh great you’re dead, but you’re so in the story that hey, if she needs to die. These writers, they create our world. They’re our father. You believe in their plan and if you’re going to die, you’re going to die. You’re doing it for the story.

It’s so intense, even when I sit down and watch it on Wednesdays. I watch it, I’m there for the story, and I’m always laughing and screaming. It’s an incredible world. It’s so much fun.”

Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/FX
Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/FX

Are we going to see where her loyalties lie? She’s basically been betrayed on both sides and played both sides. Will you get to explore that at all this season; the idea of loyalty and the cause that she was originally brought into this whole world for?

Annet: “Yes. She’s been there for four months now in isolation. One day sometimes is a long time. She’s been staring at those cracks on the wall and they branch off and it’s kind of like her life. Had she done this, she would have been somewhere else. Had she never met Stan or actually never confessed where would her life have taken her?

She went from an accomplished KGB officer who’s done so much in her first tour, second in charge at the Rezidentura to a criminal. She’s thinking about Stan and she’s thinking about Oleg and about having nothing at the end and possibly facing 15 years at a prison camp. Just mulling over all that and going crazy.”

Can you tell us anything about what we’ll see happen with Nina and her cellmate in the coming episodes?

Annet: “Evi comes and she’s a horrible intrusion to Nina’s life in prison now to her little cell of privacy. She greets her with suspicion and hate because in her experience connecting with people has gotten her in trouble. Now she has nothing and who knows why this woman is there now and why she’s been joined with Nina. There’s just no trust at this point and no interest either.

You’d think it’d be good to have someone to share with, but, again, what can you share. You can’t in the world that she lives in.”

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FX
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

I wanted to ask about the motivations of Nina through the seasons. For season 1, it was purely about survival, then in season 2 she felt that she could play both sides. You didn’t know what her ultimate goal would be because she could easily go to either side. What’s her motivation this season? Is it survival? Is it trying to find a way out or maybe trying to find a loophole to escape?

Annet: “I feel like she’s been doing everything that she’s been told to do. She’s been a really good student and that has gotten her places. And now she’s, I think, really discovering who she really is and what her beliefs really are and maybe, what she wants. Maybe we’ll really meet her now, this season.”

In an ideal case scenario, what would you like to happen to Nina in the endgame? Would you want her to defect or to run off with Oleg? What would your ideal ending for Nina’s story be?

Annet: “I want her to find her truth and her mission. Everything’s been part of someone else, a man, many men. She’s just maneuvering through and trying her best. I’ve been really ready for Nina to have her own mission; then you really discover who she is, and I think that’s really exhilarating.”

Each season we’ve seen Nina confide in a new person, somebody to release her thoughts or maybe her feelings that maybe she’s not necessarily allowed to show in her job. Obviously there’s a guard she puts up with her cellmate this season, but is there somebody that she can run to this season? Is it Oleg’s father? Do you get to explore that?

Annet: “It’s always a tough one because she was trained to be a spy, so she’s always shape-shifting. She can be anything. That’s what she’s cut out to be, so to say. She’s had great training to connect with people, but it’s all part of the job. She may enjoy it or you may see her being her[self] but, again, she knows the consequences. She knows if she opens too much or if she doesn’t open enough, then she failed.

Her job so far has been seeing through people, working with these men. That was her mission, is people. It’s never just been, even with Oleg. Stan is a detective and Oleg is a spy, so she hasn’t yet met, I guess, a human being that’s just being real, being who they are without anyone to answer to. So, I don’t know.

Then Oleg’s father comes to see her and there’s a lot of hope and it’s bizarre that he’s there. He’s a man of great influence, and again, he can do something for her just like the other men were able to, at least promise her survival.

At the same time, it’s so embarrassing. Here she is sitting, a criminal. Oleg really loves this woman, and it’s very touching that someone actually loves you and is still fighting for you when you can have completely failed and have nothing. I think that really moves something in her.”

I know that you and Keri don’t really share any screen time but when I’m watching the show I see a lot of similarities between Nina and Elizabeth. You’re both very good at your jobs, sometimes even more so than someone like Stan or someone like Philip. Do you see any similarities between Nina and Elizabeth?

Annet: “Yes, that’s a great point. I do. I do in the fact that Nina chooses to go back, not chooses, but she doesn’t run away. She doesn’t take Stan up on his plans because she was brought up in the Soviet Union. She’s a child of that belief system. The thing Stan is offering her is an American way; to have a choice, to get what you want, to succeed and then to be important.

Her ways are you’re doing something for the greater good, for the people. She’s essentially jeopardized her people and now she’s facing the consequences and she’s going for it. So that says a lot about, I guess, who she is. Elizabeth is also very true to her upbringing.”

Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/FX
Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/FX

Can you talk about Nina’s place within the discussion of women’s empowerment and on this show?

Annet: “That’s a great, great topic. It’s been so interesting because she’s with these men ultimately, but there’s so much strength to her and the men value that and see that in her. They work together and it’s so important when that happens.

It feels like 50/50 with Stan and her other interactions and that’s what it should be like. They play their separate roles, as a woman and as a man, but they come together and they do together and they understand each other. That’s really empowering.

Nina comes from a working-class family. She’s a very young pioneer. She went to school, studied her butt off and got herself to this posting with her own merit and her abilities. She’s capable of anything. She’s worked really hard and she’s got her first posting in America. She’s there to protect the interests of her country, in a different country.

It’s such a position of strength and to see this woman survive is empowering, I guess. Even though Stan is a married man, it’s not definitive circumstances for this exploration but it comes all from a deeper place. It’s not selfish. It’s not conniving. It’s not any of that. She’s truly just finding her own way, working.

Yes, I guess, she’s the example of a woman in those times and making really difficult decisions, but making them and following through. She really inspires me.”

Edited for space and content.

“Open House” synopsis, from FX:

Danger mounts for Elizabeth and Philip as they get closer to the inner circle of the C.I.A. Afghan group; Stan monitors Zinaida; Agent Aderholt challenges Agent Gaad on a crucial operation; Arkady tasks Oleg and Tatiana with gathering intel.

The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.

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