Noah Emmerich has played Stan Beeman, the stoic F.B.I. agent still oblivious to the fact that his neighbors are the very people he’s supposed to be sniffing out, for five seasons now. Emmerich’s is a quiet performance, and often the methodical foil to some of the the show’s more gasp-inducing moments.
And when Stan isn’t busy falling in love with Russian informants, risking his life to uncover information about deadly diseases, or raising a teenage son, Noah Emmerich has found the time to step behind the camera and lend his directorial eye to the story that suddenly has everyone’s attention, thanks to our new interest in Russian spies.
We got on the phone to chat with Emmerich about Henry, dealing with the show’s sudden shift in relevance, and what it was like making “Lotus 1-2-3” (April 4) — his third outing in the director’s chair.
So Henry is back — and he’s a math genius now!
Philip and Elizabeth haven’t had their attention on Henry as much, with all that is going on in their lives… Somehow, we get cast in these roles within family dynamics from a very early age. If we don’t check in, they can become irrelevant. Which is what happens with Henry.
What was it like to film that scene?
That was a fun moment to get to play with, that scene when they get called in to the teacher — a great chance, to use the great comedic timing of both Matthew and Kerri.
Paige has a heartbreaking moment at dinner with Philip. In your opinion, will she be able to ever bounce back and be happy?
Paige isn’t broken. I think she’s definitely melancholy — she’s shouldering the full reality of who her parents are, and the burdens this puts on her life, she’s a burgeoning teenager, with her first love… As complex as that can be for any teenager, it’s double for Paige. She’s told she can’t follow her heart, that she has a duty bigger than her heart. The full weight of that is landing on her. But I think she’s got a strong meddle inside — she’s struggling, but she isn’t broken.
This is the third episode you’ve directed now. What was it like this time around?
The biggest difference is the level of anxiety and fear. Your first time you’re questioning how it will all turn out. By the time I got to this season’s episode I felt a lot more confident, more comfortable. Also, you realize just how deep the support of the cast and crew is, that you have these people who are so great at their jobs, that you’re not alone out there.
This show is incredibly relevant again, given the current political climate. How do you handle that when directing?
In an odd way, it doesn’t really impact the story yet. We are writing in the bubble of 1984. It does give it a new power — an immediacy that makes a period piece feel relevant… It feels both contemporary and historical, and helps our younger audience who haven’t experienced the dynamic first hand — it makes it potentially more accessible. As a director, or actor, I try to keep that out of my head, because it effects the story.
So do you like knowing what’s going to happen, or do you prefer to learn episode by episode?
I do think that can help inform a performance. If a decision in episode seven helps inform something a character does in episode three, it could be helpful to know that. But it’s also nice to not have that information as well — to play a scene in the moment, and trust the writers will bring it all together.
If you were given the choice to have the next seven episodes, or not, which do you prefer?
As a director, I will always take the seven episodes!
Follow-up question: When is Henry finally going to become a spy?
I can’t speak about the future, but I think he is a critical character on our show, and important to the family. Henry is equally as important and relevant as Paige, and we all look forward to that dynamic more.
“The Americans” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.