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Matthew Rhys: “I still blink hard when the young PAs say, ‘We’re doing this period drama’”

The Cold War-era espionage thriller "The Americans," which is halfway through its first season on FX (and airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET), is not the first series to challenge the audience to identify with unsympathetic characters. But this early 1980s drama pushes American views a little harder, asking us to root for KGB sleeper cells living in suburban northern Virginia as Americans — and see CIA and FBI agents as the enemy. Welsh actor Matthew Rhys, who last appeared on U.S. television in ABC's  family drama "Brothers & Sisters" as a gay lawyer (and whose TV brood included Rachel Griffiths, Calista Flockhart and Sally Field), returns to the small screen to play Philip Jennings, a Russian spy, who takes all of his roles very seriously, no matter which identity he's assumed. He is an effective strategist when it comes to collecting intelligence — and a scrappy thug when he needs to be. But equally interesting is the domestic drama within "The Americans": Philip is devoted to his wife, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) — despite the fact that theirs is an arranged, sham marriage — and an extremely protective father to their daughter and son, who know nothing of their parents' secret and past lives. And part of Philip wonders if it would just be better for the family to defect, to buy into the American way of life — which would, of course, mean betraying his country and abandoning his life's work.

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