Entertainment

The finer points of espionage in The Americans

The Americans is a show that thrives on never quite revealing exactly what motivates its various spies and government agents. Who can be trusted, and who has a hidden agenda?

While Noah Emmerich’s Stan Beeman navigates the intricacies of the FBI, his counterparts in the Russian Rezidentura have found a new face in their midst: Oleg Burov, played by Costa Ronin. Oleg received one of the show’s finer introductions, missing an important summons from Rezidentura head Arkady Ivanovich (Lev Gorn) because he was listening to American music too loudly on his headphones. While Arkady was quick to write him off as a rich man’s son using his connections to get ahead, Oleg has proven resourceful.

Oleg comes off as pretty confident about his spycraft, but as Ronin warns us, “that’s his persona.”

It’s also the case with every character on the show, says Ronin. “Everybody’s so good at hiding what they think and hiding what they feel because a small display of weakness can lead to somebody dying.”

Oleg’s apparent bravado may be more for protection than anything else, even among the KGB agents. “He cannot let them see how smart he is, he cannot let them see how savvy he is, he cannot show them all the cards that he’s got.”

Don’t always assume that stony-faced people in suits would make good agents, though. Ronin says good spies are “the friendliest people you will ever meet, the people who will bring cupcakes to your Sunday brunch, who will pick up your kids from school ... To be the best, you cannot be thought of (as) being a spy.”

Though Ronin was initially only signed on for two episodes, the producers decided to keep him on for more of the hit spy drama’s second season. As the season has progressed, Oleg has begun a careful dance with Beeman, initiated after a slow-paced but intense car chase, of which Ronin says, “They did have to tell me to slow down a few times.” He begins blackmailing Beeman over his involvement with the poker-faced Rezidentura employee Nina (Annet Mahendru), whom Oleg also begins seeing. It’s all a careful balancing act. Will it all come crashing down on him?

“The show’s about people and how they struggle with what they have to do,” says Ronin. What, exactly, will Oleg have to do? Keep watching The Americans to see whether he’s just clever enough to stay ahead of the other spies.

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