This season of "The Americans" has been its finest yet, zooming in on the romantic and familial relationships that are at the heart of the show, while exploring how parental traumas reverberate in the younger generation. At the center of it all has been their teenage daughter Paige Jennings, played by 17-year-old Holly Taylor, who has become the focal point of a Cold War playing out in miniature: Torn between her mother, Elizabeth (Keri Russell), who wants to groom her to follow in her footsteps as a KGB spy, and her father, Phillip (Matthew Rhys), who wants to preserve her innocence for as long as he can. Paige, meanwhile, is in the midst of her own teenage rebellion, turning to the Church for the answers she isn't getting at home -- much to her parents' chagrin. Suffice to say, there's plenty going on. In the wake of last night's Noah Emmerich-directed episode, we caught up with Taylor to chat about Paige's future, how the show has helped her mature, and her newfound appreciation for turtlenecks.
You’ve had such an interesting storyline this season and Paige has become so pivotal to the show. How did it feel when you found out how significant your character’s arc was going to be?
I was definitely excited at the beginning of season three, just knowing that Paige's character was going to become more pivotal and kind of really cause the conflict between Phillip and Elizabeth, so I was excited, personally, because I get to do more stuff and I love being on set obviously, so I was excited to kind of be there more often. But also I just thought it was a really cool way to add to the storyline, because in season one, Paige and Henry were both just kind of in the background setting the scene for the parents but now it's breaking that it really is an issue of how their childrens' future is going to go. So it’s really cool to watch and see how my character’s developing.
Were you nervous about the amount of centrality Paige was going to have or were you excited?
I was really excited but also kind of nervous just because it was kind of a big jump. Because season two I kept getting a little more but it still wasn’t a lot. So this season every episode was kind of more work to do so I was a little bit nervous and didn’t want to let anyone down or anything. So I just was trying my best and hopefully it was good.
It’s been great. And this season has been really interesting with Philip and Elizabeth being pulled either way and with you rebelling and joining the church. What do you think Paige is going through with her newfound religious conversion?
That was really interesting for me to look into. It was definitely an unexpected twist. How many TV shows do you see whose child rebels by going to church? It was kind of strange at first to get used to but you really start to understand it once you see how Paige really doesn’t have anyone she can trust or rely on or go to to find truth and that’s what she finds in the church, so it really becomes a good substitute for her life at home, which isn’t very healthy for her. She doesn’t feel like she’s safe. It’s just a nice for her to be at church and I think that adds really nicely to the story because it’s just kind of unexpected and it’s almost comical sometimes, to see parents not supporting their child’s beliefs.
I feel like when you first start watching the show, as dysfunctional as Elizabeth and Philip are, it seems like they have a pretty good home life and that they’ve raised their kids in a responsible way, but I think by seeing Paige’s rebellion, you realize that there’s a lot of ways in which she’s not fulfilled and kind of feels neglected by her parents.
Right. Definitely. It’s not like they’re obviously abusive or anything. It could be a lot worse. But at the same time, it’s almost just as bad for her to not know what she's dealing with because she knows that there is something going on beneath the typical family life that they have but she doesn’t know what it is. So she’s always questioning who they’re with, what they’re doing, why are they going out this late at night, what’s going on? It’s just really confusing for her and she never really has any answers. She just wants answers. And it’s obviously hard to get them because her parents can’t just explain it to her out of the blue.
There was a key scene two episodes ago where Elizabeth kind of opens up to her. How did you think that Paige felt hearing this initial revalation from her mom?
I think that Paige kind of felt like any other teenager would. So many kids think that their parents weren’t a teenager before. That they were just born adults that tell you what to do or something. I don’t think that way, but a lot of my friends do. So I think that Paige is kind of like, okay, you’re not that much like me, we don’t believe in the same things or support what I want to do all the time, so I feel like it was hard for her to connect to that. But I think that it kind of sparked that in her so now she can start to realize how similar she is with her mom and it really helps to develop their relationship more which we saw getting more sincere and Paige is appreciating her coming to the church with her and stuff so I think it’s a good start.
It’s been interesting because it’s been kind of a tug of war between Philip and Elizabeth. He takes her dress shopping and she goes to church with her and they’re kind of fighting over her. It’s an interesting tension.
Definitely. It’s kind of funny almost, how they’re fighting over their daughter and giving her these little things. It’s also the whole idea of is he taking her dress shopping because he really wants to or just because he wants to go get a word in with her without Elizabeth being around? Or is Elizabeth going into church with her because she really wants to or is it just because she’s trying to get close to her and so she can tell her who she is. I think there's a bit of both in there but it's definitely interesting to watch because they're kind of eternal struggles.
Do you feel like working on this show -- and working on a drama that has such complex themes -- has forced you to mature maybe faster than some of your friends who haven’t gone through this experience?
Yeah. I mean, I think that it has and I even just -- I was on Broadway before in a show and that had the same effect on me. Having to be professional and working with adults, you can’t just run around like a kid, wild, all the time, you know? You have to be mature and you have to be able to handle the material that they give you. I’m a perfectionist so if I let anyone down, I’d be so upset, so I really try and put everything I have into it and be as professional as I can. I think it’s definitely making me mature a little quicker. Not intentionally but I guess that just kind of happens.
Do you guys ever get to goof around on set?
It would definitely be hard on a drama especially to run around the set screaming or something. Or playing games. But we do have a lot of fun on set anyways. Currently I’m in a Trivia Crack war with a bunch of the people in the crew, so we have a lot of fun.
What’s Trivia Crack?
It’s this app for your phone where basically you just like play your friends and stuff, you get their username and there's five six or something subjects. Then you have to answer trivia questions about each one. It’s really hard but it’s so much fun and I get really into it. It's crazy. I love it so much. The whole crew is into it and is like: oh my God, add me. Then I rub it in someone’s face when I beat him. It’s really funny. We all get along so well and I’m definitely lucky to have them.
You must be an expert on 80's trivia by now.
I don’t know! I feel like I should be but I always have that fear that someone’s going to ask me something about the 80s and I'm going to have no idea what they’re talking about and then I'm going to feel really bad about myself.
Like, you have a history exam on the Cold War and everyone has high expectations.
Yeah. Cause I was learning about that in my history class recently. And there was a few things I didn't know and I was like oh my God, so embarrassing. My teacher probably expects me to know all this stuff already, but like I hope he doesn’t think I’m a bad person.
I’m sure not! How similar would you say that you are to Paige and how are you different?
To be honest, I can’t relate to her that much, especially because of season three and everything. In season one I could relate to her more because it was more a conflict with herself individually and trying to figure out who she is, trying to find out what she needs and wha you need in life. I think everyone goes through that especially adolescents in teenage years and stuff, and your awkward years. So I could definitely relate to her a lot. But this season -- well, I’m hoping that my parents aren’t spies and I’m not planning on being devoted to a church or anything so it’s hard to find specific things to relate to, but I think what helps me more is the fact that I understand where she’s coming from. I have to think how she would think and step into that.
Did you have a rebellious phase?
Not at all. I don't know, I’m not like a goody two shoes but I just know that if I did something wrong, in the back of my head I'm just like: oh God, when you go home Mom’s going to kill you, Dad's going to be mad. So I always have that thing in my head where I just do what I'm told to do and that’s it. So I didn't really go through much rebellion but my brother did, so I guess I can kind of take from his experiences as I watched him get yelled at.
What would you like to see happen for Paige? Is there any place that you are hoping that the writers are able to take your character to?
To be honest, I’m just hoping that Paige becomes a spy. I’ve been wanting that to happen since season one and it’s just being drawn out, and I'm like, Oh my god. Just make her a spy already. I just want to do martial arts and wear a wig or something. That’s my goal and I hope it’ll happen but we’ll see. I think that would be really awesome to see, kind of like mother like daughter.
I was talking to Noah Emmerich earlier and he was saying he was also jealous that Philip and Elizabeth get all the cool wigs and he doesn't get any.
Definitely! They just put me in curlers when I go there but they get these lavender wigs and color contacts and like fake scars. Why can’t I have all those fancy things? It looks like so much fun. I would love to do that. I don’t know. I think it would be awesome.
Has your off-set style changed at all from like getting dressed in all these cool '80s clothes?
I know that Paige’s style has changed. I know that. They tried to make her look more like Elizabeth, especially in season three. But I’m not sure if my style’s changed -- actually, I think it has! The turtleneck is starting to grow on me and I never thought I would say that ever and I can’t believe I just admitted it. Because I was always saying how I hated turtlenecks and I was like: Don’t make me do it! But they always put me in turtlenecks. But now I see them in the stores and there's so much 80's stuff in all the stores now and the high-waisted pants. I’m kind of starting to like it now. So maybe I’ll go for that.
I’ve also been liking turtlenecks more lately, I think they're having a moment.
I think it also helps that if I were to get high-waisted jeans now they'd be dressy, whereas the ones I wear on the show are like made of cardboard and I can’t sit down without bruising myself.
How far in advance do you know what’s going to happen? Have you got the next few scripts and do you know whether the big reveal is going to come?
I do know some stuff that's going to happen season three-wise because right now we’re shooting the finale. I know pretty much everything for this season now. But usually while we’re shooting, I get the script like a week before I shoot the specific episode. We kind of find out last minute, and then you go in and do it, and then that’s it. So they’re always keeping you on your toes.
No spoilers but can you give us a taste of what kind of a ride we're in for with Paige?
This question always scares me. Oh god. Let’s see. I think that you’ll just see Paige keep up with her suspicion and that will lead to some stuff. That’s all I’m saying.