‘The Americans’: Noah Emmerich Almost Said No Because He Was ‘Done with Guns and Badges’

Shows about undercover spies are not a new thing. Over the years, fans have seen movies like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Keeping Up With The Joneses with identical synopsis. The Americans also had a similar storyline but took things to a whole new level with its creation and plots. Although fans only know Noah Emmerich as Stan Beeman, they would have seen a different actor take on the role had Emmerich continued with his stance on guns and badges.

What is ‘The Americans’ about?

The Americans is a period spy thriller that centers around Elizabeth and Philip Jennings. The two are Soviet KGB intelligence officers acting as a married couple in Falls Church. Together Elizabeth and Philip have two children Paige and Henry.

The show starts after the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and ends in December 1987 before the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty. The Americans features the conflict between the KGB Rezidentura and the FBI by exploring the respective bodies’ agents, including Stan Beeman the Jennings’s neighbor and a counterintelligence FBI agent.

The show is shot in Manhattan, which doubles for Washington DC. To ensure that it stays true to its period setting, the creative team kept removing digital thermostats, flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, and gas stoves from some areas.

When The Americans’ creator Joe Weisberg was looking for a setting for the show, he was inclined to set it in the ’70s because he “loved the hair and the music.” The showrunner put a lot of thought into the period he wanted the show to be set in.

One of the eras Weisberg wanted to set the show in was the Jimmy Carter era. However, the creator reasoned, “it was hard to think of things getting too hot and everybody wanting to kill each other too much under Jimmy Carter.” It wasn’t until he started thinking of Ronald Reagan that “everything immediately clicked.”

The CIA had significant involvement in the show

Noah Emmerich
Noah Emmerich | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The Americans is one of those shows that the CIA has played a significant part in. For starters, Weisberg, the show’s creator, worked for the agency for four years, from 1990 to 1994. Before they began shooting for the show, Weisberg taught the main characters and crew some practical surveillance techniques, such as telling if someone is following you.

Secondly, the show’s pilot borrowed inspiration from a 2010 FBI investigation on 10 Russian spies who’d been living undercover in the US for more than ten years. Additionally, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually went through every script written for the show.

Weisberg had to submit his scripts for review by the agency one month before they shot. The showrunner said that he would send the scripts in every time with a request to expedite the review. Fortunately, the CIA never found anything classified to ask Weisberg to remove from the script.

Still, Weisberg was worried that although he hadn’t worked for the agency for a long time, the tactics he’d shared with his cast and crew members would get him in trouble. However, he submitted a request before sharing the techniques, which the agency approved.

Emmerich wasn’t sold on the script

Although Emmerich played the Jennings’ FBI neighbor almost flawlessly, the star didn’t want to take on the role at first. Mental Floss reports that the actor had to be convinced to take on his memorable role. Emmerich’s friend Gavin O’Connor, who directed the show pilot, told him to take up the role, but the star thought he didn’t want to “do a tv show where you carry a gun or a badge.”

Emmerich’s reasoning was understandable since he had played cops in numerous other projects before appearing on The Americans. Emmerich appeared in NYPD Blue, Monk, andThe Walking Dead before landing the part to play Stan in The Americans.

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