The Central Intelligence Agency has the right to nix or alter the scripts written for “The Americans,” the hit original drama on the FX Network, according to today’s “WSL Live at Bryant Park” event at the Celsius restaurant and bar, erected every year with the opening of the skating rink.
Joe Weisberg, creator and executive producer of the show that features two husband and wife KGB agents posing as American citizens living in Washington, D.C. during the 1980s, is a former CIA staffer who departed as an case officer in training for a career in Hollywood.
His exit agreement with the agency requires him to submit any intelligence-related scripts to the CIA for prior approval.
’The Americans’ panel included (L-R) actor Noah Emmerich , executive producer Joel Fields and creator/EP Joe Weisberg.
That includes material done with Joel Fields, FX co-writer and executive producer. Weisberg said the CIA has not touched his FX stuff.
The CIA has bent over backwards to cooperate with FX. Weisberg said the agency usually requires a month to review material, but expedites that process for him because of tight deadlines for the weekly program.
Fields said prior CIA approval does offer a huge benefit. Whenever there is a problem with the studio, he tells the suits that the CIA has already approved the script so let’s get on with it.
Other nuggets from the session from Weisberg and Fields:
* The U.S. nuclear command circumvented the “nuclear football,” portable missile launch controller that is carried by an aide to the President. The commanders apparently feared that an unbalanced president would either launch an unwanted pre-emptive strike or fail to respond to a threat. The Kennedy administration got the controls back to the president.
* For many years, the U.S. nuclear launch code was simply a string of zeros. The writers kidded that it would be similar to somebody today having "password" as their computer password.
* Immediately following the 1981 assassination of President Ronald Reagan, his Secretary of State and retired General Alexander Haig, famously declared (to the chagrin of Vice President George HW Bush) “I’m in charge here” and demanded control of the nuclear football. He got it.
* The show is shot in New York City, mostly in Brooklyn and Queens, which the writers said resemble streets in Washingon. Scenes of D.C. monuments are laid-in by computer. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is used to mimic scenes of overseas undercover meetings. A panelist said if The Americans needs a shot of a meeting in Rome or Vienna the program will simply put up a sign in the park reading Rome or Vienna Botanic Garden."
Noah Emmerich, who plays FBI agent Stan Beeman and next-door neighbor to KGB Agents Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) and husband Phillip (Matthew Rhys), said he usually doesn’t know much about upcoming shows. His main request: Where is the overall theme going?
FX is part of Fox Broadcasting, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, corporate cousin of the Wall Street Journal. The panel was held for subscribers of the WSJ, who had a half-hour “meet and greet” and poster-signing session before the event.
The Americans begins its second season on Feb. 26.
The CIA will be watching and I will, too.