Interview with Annet Mahendru from "The Americans" on FX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Annet Mahendru

Interview with Annet Mahendru of "The Americans" on FX 2/10/15

Final Transcript
FX NETWORK: The Americans
February 10, 2015/10:00 a.m. PST

Rosy Baker
Annet Mahendru


Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to The Americans conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Rosy Baker. Please go ahead.

Rosy: Hello, and welcome to The Americans conference call with series star Annet Mahendru, who plays Nina. Iíd like to thank everyone for joining us today and remind you that this is for print purposes only. No audio may be used.

Season 3 of The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific only on FX. And as always, we respectfully request that you are mindful of spoilers to help protect the viewing experience for our audience. With that said, letís go ahead and take our first question.

Moderator: Our first question comes from the line of Renee Macek with Voice of Please go ahead.

Renee: Hi Annet. How are you?

Annet: Good. How are you?

Renee: Good. I just want to say Iím loving the season so far and, as always, your performance is fantastic.

Annet: Thatís good to hear.

Renee: Iím just curious. Obviously, it was a big blow to see Nina get sent back to Russia at the end of last season. What do you think was going on in her head, other than betrayal from Stan? Do you think that that there was any relief that it was finally over, that she didnít have to play both sides anymore?

Annet: You know, yes. She is definitely going to face her own fate, and sheís decided to do it. She could have been exfiltrated. We had the car ready for her and Stan and already had the money for her and told her to run. I think sheís just going to face whatever it is.

Moderator: Our next question then comes from the line of Brandon Rowe with Spoiler TV. Please go ahead.

Brandon: Hi Annet.

Annet: Hi.

Brandon: Obviously, in isolation, Nina is playing a bit of a different role this season. Can you talk a little bit about whatís in store for Nina in the coming episodes?

Annet: A lot of isolation. Itís finding your way to survive. Sheís still tough. Sheís still Nina but without all the ways she usually has to survive. Itís a really, really scary time, and youíre really just facing yourself. Thatís it.

Brandon: Well, thank you.

Moderator: The next question is from the line of Bruce Eisen with Here is TV. Please go ahead.

Bruce: Good morning. Iím wondering; when youíre not working do you like to watch TV and if so, what do you like to watch?

Annet: I do. Iíve been watching The Comeback, and I watched Married; so, a lot of comedy recently.

Bruce: Thank you.

Moderator: We have a question from the line of Rebecca Murray with Showbiz Junkies. Please go ahead.

Rebecca: Good morning. The scripts are so sharply written. Do they still surprise you? Do the twists and turns still surprise you? And what was your initial reaction to getting the script for the finale of last season?

Annet: They always surprise me. Itís nice that way. I always know that thereís something crazy happening to Nina. There always is, but I never know what. The world is always moving, and itís such a thrill for me as an artist. When I got the finale, I, too, was hopeful. There was stillóStan was in the car, and she wasnít alone yet. She wasnít on the plane yet. There was a lot of possibility. Then you wait for the next one and then you find out that youíre in prison.

Rebecca: Thank you.

Moderator: We have a question from the line of Fatima Elidrissi with El Mundo. Please go ahead.

Fatima: Hello Annet. Iím calling from Spain. First of all, I wanted to ask you because I read you were born in Afghanistan, that your father is Indian, and your Mother is Russian, you speak six languages, so you have the profile to be a natural spy. I want you to tell me a little bit about your upbringing. How was your childhood and then why did you travel to live to the US?

Annet: Because I was a spy. No, I think thatís how I got the job, though, because they asked me the same questions in my audition. I think I felt, for a second, maybe thatís enough. I donít have to do my scene anymore. Because they were like, wait are you a spy, is your dad a spy?

Why did I come here? I came here to learn English. I essentially grew up here, so it was a surprise for me to do a Russian part. I hadnít beenóIím an American, I guess, in disguise.

Fatima: Okay, thank you.

Moderator: Our next question is from the line of Renee Macek with Voice of Please go ahead.

Renee: Hello again. I know that you and Keri donít really share any screen time but when Iím watching the show I see a lot of similarities between Nina and Elizabeth. I feel like youíre both very good at your jobs, sometimes even more so than someone like Stan or someone like Philip. I was just wondering; do you see any similarities between Nina and Elizabeth?

Annet: Yes, thatís a great point. I do. I do in the fact that Nina chooses to go back, not chooses, but she doesnít run away. She doesnít take Stan up on his plans because she was brought up in the Soviet Union. Sheís a child of that belief system. The thing Stan is offering her is an American way; to have a choice, to get what you want, to succeed and then to be important. Her ways are youíre doing something for the greater good, for the people. Sheís essentially jeopardized her people, and now sheís facing the consequences and sheís going for it. So that says a lot about, I guess, who she is. Elizabeth is also very true to her upbringing.

Renee: Right. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Annet: Thank you.

Moderator: We have a question from the line of Brandon Rowe with Spoiler TV. Please go ahead.

Brandon: Hello again. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about what weíll see happen with Nina and her cellmate in the coming episodes.

Annet: Evi comes, and sheís a horrible intrusion to Ninaís life in prison now to her little cell of privacy. And itís notóshe greets her with suspicion and hate because in her experience connecting with people has gotten her in trouble. Now she has nothing and who knows why this woman is there now and why sheís been joined with Nina. Thereís just no trust at this point and no interest either.

Brandon: Thank you.

Annet: Youíd think itíd be good to have someone to share with, but, again, what can you share. You canít in the world that she lives in.

Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of Melissa Girimonte with The Televixen. Please go ahead.

Melissa: Hi Annet, pleasure to speak with you today.

Annet: Hi.

Melissa: What I was interested in, you mentioned that thereís a lot of isolation for Nina this season. Iím kind of wondering if weíre going to see her, basically where her loyalties lie. Sheís basically kind of been betrayed on both sides and played both sides. Will you get to explore that at all this season; the idea of loyalty and the cause that she was originally brought into this whole world for?

Annet: Yes. Sheís been there for four months now in isolation. One day sometimes is a long time. Sheís been staring at those cracks on the wall and they kind of branch off and itís kind of like her life. Had she done this, she would have been somewhere else. Had she never met Stan or actually never confessed where would her life have taken her?

She went from an accomplished KGB officer whoís done so much in her first tour, second in charge at the [indiscernible] to a criminal. Sheís thinking about Stan, and sheís thinking about Oleg and about having nothing at the end and possibly facing 15 years at a prison camp. Just mulling over all that and going crazy.

Melissa: Well, thank you.

Moderator: The next question then is from the line of Ernie Estrella with Please go ahead.

Ernie: Hi Annet.

Annet: Hi.

Ernie: Itís nice to speak with you today. I wanted to ask about the motivations of Nina through the seasons. For Season 1, it was purely about survival, and then in Season 2 she felt that she could play both sides. You didnít know what her ultimate goal would be because she could easily go to either side. Whatís her motivation this season? Is it survival? Is it trying to find a way out or maybe trying to find a loophole to escape?

Annet: I feel like sheís been doing everything that sheís been told to do. Sheís been a really good student, and that has gotten her places. And now sheís, I think, really discovering who she really is and, I think, what her beliefs really are and what, maybe, what she wants. I think maybe weíll really meet her now, this season.

Ernie: Thank you.

Annet: Thank you.

Moderator: We have a follow-up from the line of Fatima Elidrissi with El Mundo. Please go ahead.

Fatima: Hi Annet. I wanted to ask you if playing this part does have any special meaning for you. I donít know if it reminds you of your childhood in Russia or it reminds you maybe of your mother or anything, something apart from the thrill of playing a spy. I donít know if it has any special meaning for you.

Annet: It has a lot of special meanings for me. I went to school for international relations, and I wanted to use my languages and to shake something in the world. And now, Nina, I think, embodies all that.

Yes, Russia, of course, I was a little girl, and I was looking up to my mom and she wasó

And actually when she ends up in prison, someone very close to me has been there in those times and experienced a little bit later in the 90s. I got to talk to them personally about being alone and being cold. Itís been completely mind blowing. Everything comes from the heart.

I left Russia, so I never had that experience Nina has in her 20s, a Russian woman coming to America during that time. Something my mother would have experienced that I got to experience now. Itís brought me closer to all my roots, including my Indian roots and then just illuminated many things in my life.

Fatima: Okay. Thank you very much.

Moderator: We have a question from the line of Renee Macek with Voice of Please go ahead.

Renee: Hello again.

Annet: Hi.

Renee: I know that we obviously donít know whatís going to happen, but Iím curious, in an ideal case scenario, what would you like to happen to Nina in the endgame? Would you want her to defect or to run off with Oleg? What would your ideal ending for Ninaís story be?

Annet: I want her to find her truth and her mission. Everythingís been part of someone else, a man, many men. Sheís just maneuvering through and trying her best. Iíve been really ready for Nina to have her own mission; then you really discover who she is, and I think thatís really exhilarating.

Renee: Thank you so much.

Moderator: Our next question comes from the line of Ernie Estrella with Please go ahead

Ernie: Hi again. My question is about, each season weíve seen Nina confide in a new person. Somebody to release her thoughts or maybe her feelings that maybe sheís not necessarily allowed to show in her job. Obviously thereís a guard that she puts up with her cellmate this season, but is there somebody that she can run to this season? Is it Olegís father? Do you get to explore that this season?

Annet: Iím sorry. You mean does she have anyone in her new world?

Ernie: Yes, like does she have somebody that she can show us her personal side, maybe let her guard down and really show us who she is outside of the guard that she shows?

Annet: Yes. Itís always a tough one because she was trained to be a spy, so sheís always shape-shifting. She can be anything. Thatís what sheís cut out to be, so to say. Sheís had great training to connect with people. Again, but itís all part of the job. She may enjoy it, or you may see her being her but, again, she knows the consequences. She knows if she opens too much, or if she doesnít open enough, then she failed.

Her job so far has been seeing through people, working with these men. That was her mission, is people. Itís never just been, even with Oleg. Stan is a detective and Oleg is a spy, so she hasnít yet met, I guess, a human being thatís just being real, being who they are without anyó

Ernie: Duplicity.

Annet: Anyone to answer to. So, I donít know. Then Olegís father comes to see her, and thereís a lot of hope and itís bizarre that heís there. Heís a man of great influence, and again, he can do something for her just like the other men were able to, at least promise her survival. At the same time, itís so embarrassing. Here she is sitting, a criminal. Oleg really loves this woman, and it's very touching that someone actually loves you and is still fighting for you when you can have completely failed and have nothing. I think that really moves something in her.

Ernie: Awesome. Thank you.

Moderator: We have a question from the line of Fabiola Avila with Excelsior. Please go ahead.

Fabiola: Thank you. Yes, how are you?

Annet: Hi

Fabiola: I want to know, how much of, sorry?

Annet: Go ahead. I didnít say anything.

Fabiola: Okay. Thank you. I was wondering how much of reality and how much of fiction is on this TV show because I know that itís inspired on the Cold War and all that stuff. But in your experience and the things that you know and the things the producers know, how much is reality and how much is fiction?

Annet: You know, for me when I take a story, all of it comes so true, and that world is so real, and it exists. Any cultural references hit home like, yes. Iíve never had to argue anything, or say hey thatís not, a Russian person wouldnít do that. The creator has worked in the CIA, Joe, and a lot of the things are from his experience and are very accurate.

But again, we use our imagination in storytelling and go to places that donít usually get talked about or seen. But itís really about the story. We follow a timeline, so everything is based on events that happened. But it's ultimately aboutóThe Americans is about exploring the human condition and time and what a person fromówhen Nina sits with Stan, thatís the two sides of the Cold War, and yet, thereís so much intimacy and understanding in all the difference. Thatís, I think, the essence of the show, is that when these two people sit together and what happens.

Fabiola: Thank you.

Moderator: Our next question is from the line of Emily Morgan with Headlines & Global. Please go ahead.

Emily: Hi Annet.

Annet: Hi.

Emily: I recently spoke with your co-star Alison Wright and she said that you guys check in with each other about if your characters are still alive that week. Has it surprised you that your character has stayed alive as long as she has? And is there been any point where youíre like, this has got to be the end for Nina?

Annet: Yes, the finale of Season 2. I remember I hadnít gotten the script yet, and things were looking really bad. Nina knew from the start that it would be impossible to turn Stan. And yet she did what she could and then comes to know, and of course, heís notóheís unturnable. I was just waiting for the script, and then I get a phone call from Joe and Joel and I was like, this is deep, is this the youíre going to die? Oh, great. And theyíre like, no.

I live for the story, and sure itís going to, thereís an aspect that, oh great youíre dead, but youíre so in the story that hey, if she needs to die. These writers, they create our world. Theyíre our father. You believe in their plan, and if youíre going to die, youíre going to die. Youíre doing it for the story. Itís so intense, even when I sit down and watch it on Wednesdays. I watch it, Iím there for the story, and Iím always laughing and screaming. Itís an incredible world. Itís so much fun.

Emily: Alright. Thanks so much.

Rosy: We have time for one more question.

Moderator: That question comes from the line of Ernie Estrella with

Ernie: Hi Annet. My last question is about the themes and the wonderful women that we have to watch on this show, whether itís Martha, Elizabeth, Nina or even Stanís wife. This comes at a time when 80s American culture was trying to put down the woman, yet thereís something like Working Girl and the rise of women starting to come up in the working field. Can you talk about Ninaís place within this kind of discussion of women empowerment and on this show?

Annet: Thatís a great, great topic. Itís been so interesting because sheís with these men ultimately, but thereís so much strength to her, and the men value that and see that in her. They work together, and itís so important when that happens. It feels like 50/50 with Stan and her other interactions and thatís what it should be like. They play their separate roles, as a woman and as a man, but they come together, and they do together and they understand each other. Thatís really empowering.

Nina comes from a working-class family. Sheís a very young pioneer. She went to school, studied her butt off, and got herself to this posting with her own merit and her abilities. Sheís capable of anything. Sheís worked really hard, and sheís got her first posting in America. Sheís there to protect the interests of her country, in a different country.

Itís such a position of strength and to see this woman survive is empowering, I guess. Even though Stan is a married man, itís not definitive circumstances for this exploration but it comes all from a deeper place. Itís not selfish. Itís not conniving. Itís not any of that. Sheís truly just finding her own way, working. Yes, I guess, sheís the example of a woman in those times and making really difficult decisions, but making them, and following through. She really inspires me.

Ernie: Great. Awesome, thank you so much.

Annet: Thank you.

Rosy: Alright. Well, thank you so much to everyone joining us today and especially Annet, thank you. We really appreciate your time.

As a reminder, Season 3 of The Americans continues Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern/Pacific only on FX.You may now all disconnect.

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