It’s been an interesting year so far for Oleg Burov in Season 3 of The Americans. After going up against FBI Agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) in last season of FX’s spy drama, Oleg has been forced to work together with his former enemy, as the two men have become unlikely allies in an attempt to help free the woman they both love, Nina (Annet Mahendru), from a Russian prison. So do Oleg and Stan really trust each other, and will we see them continue this mission in final four episode of The Americans‘ third season? That was just one of the question I got to ask Costa Ronin, who plays Oleg on the FX series. However, that wasn’t until after he and I had a lengthy discussion about Philly cheesesteaks (once he learned that I’m from Philadelphia), and I tried to explain why Jim’s is better than Geno’s and also gave him some suggestions on places to go the next time he’s in town. But if you’re more interested on his thoughts about this season of The Americans (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s one of the best shows on television), then check out TVOvermind’s exclusive interview with Ronin below.
TVOvermind: This season on The Americans, Oleg’s main mission has been to help Nina get out of prison somehow and that’s caused him to have to work with Stan more and more. Will we see them continue this mission in the final four episodes of the season?
Costa Ronin: Well, they have to work together, because they’ve gone too far to pull back now. It’s one of those very unlikely duos that you don’t get to see on television or in film often. Both of them come from different backgrounds. Both of them are established and known enemies of one another, yet they follow a cause that is, somehow, surprisingly greater than both of them and what they’re supposed to do. They’re trying to liberate Nina and get her back in the United States. It’s interesting, but it’s also, from a creative point of view, it’s one of those gifts as an actor where you get to be on a show where nothing is as it seems, where the characters cannot talk frankly to one another–there’s always something else.
With Oleg and Stan, it takes it to another level, because we know they are enemies, we know they are against each other–they spent the whole last season against each other. They’re not only on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, but as men, as people, they both love Nina. Regardless of what Nina feels for them, she is a big part of both of their lives. So now they have to work together, united by this very unlikely cause, and it’s terrific. And I hope it’s enjoyable to watch, because it’s an absolute gift to be working in those scenes.
Do you think Oleg has begun to trust Stan more, or do you think the two of them are just using each other? And how has it been working with Noah more this season? Your guys’ scenes together are great.
Absolutely they don’t trust each other, but they have to. There’s a certain level of trust has to be established in order for them to move forward and achieve their goal, because if they don’t trust each other on any level, then nothing is going to get done.
This is what takes this relationship to yet another level. While we know they don’t trust each other, there has to be certain bits of information that are coming out, from both of them, that are true. They have to be able to forge a relationship where they have each other’s backs to a certain degree. You saw in this week’s episode where they stage the interrogation and fight. What’s amazing is how some of the audience members did not recognize Oleg in that scene, but I remember filming that–even some of the crew members didn’t recognize me.
I know I didn’t realize it was you at first. The makeup department had you completely unrecognizable.
I walked past and shook the hands of a couple people, and they were like, “Who is this guy?” [Laughs] It was a lot fun, man. It was a lot of fun. They did an amazing job at building a whole new character almost.
We’ve also seen Oleg exerting more independence this season, with his desire to stay in the United States instead of returning to Russia, as his father requested. Will he or Arkady, who has helped him, face any consequences for their actions?
It’s something that we’ll have to wait and see. Oleg did not leave Moscow and come to Washington to do what his father told him. You don’t get to be a powerful man like his father by doing what other people tell you. You have to break away and start making you your own decisions, and then pay for the consequences. You have to own up to what you do. And Oleg’s his own man in this landscape of the Cold War, but to his father, he’ll always be a kid. Your parents, my parents–I will always be a kid to my parents. It’s this powerful bond that exists between parents and their children, and it’s existed always.
With Oleg staying in the United States for longer, do you think there’s any chance that he’ll grow to sympathize with the country more, or enjoy his time here more?
About whether or not he’s enjoying his time in the United States, I would say yeah, he is. He loves his work. He thinks he’s making a difference. He thinks the world is much bigger than just fighting for one cause or another. And in that way, he is both a man of his time, but he’s also quite a bit ahead of it. He knows that there is a bigger picture.
And even though Oleg’s in his own separate storyline, do you think we’ll ever see him work with Philip and Elizabeth at some point in the series, and would you, as an actor, like to work more with Matthew and Keri?
From my point of view, as an actor, absolutely. I would be very grateful for an opportunity to work with those guys, because they’re terrific human beings, both Keri and Matthew, and they’re also incredible artists. But from the point of view of the reality of this world, I think [Oleg working with Philip and Elizabeth] is very unlikely. Oleg is an established KGB officer, an established spy, so for him to be seen with undercover spies would potentially blow their cover and would lead to the failure of the mission. So they cannot be seen together…because Oleg is being watched. Everybody knows he is KGB, everybody knows he is a spy.
As you just said, the show is very realistic and very authentic to not only the time, but to all the stress and danger it would cause to actually be one of these spies during the Cold War. For you, as an actor, is it difficult at all to get into the different time period that The Americans take place in and into the mindset of a character like Oleg?
As far as building that character and being in his shoes, it’s like any other character. I do a lot of work before I start a project, but when I’m on set, in a scene, I just let go. It’s very important to find the energy of that character, to figure out his heartbeat and sync up his heartbeat up with mine…I want to make sure that all of Oleg’s decisions and actions are his and not mine. Creating that character starts with Joel and Joe and the amazing team of writers they’ve put together, and then it goes through so many departments to make him real. And then I get the opportunity to breathe life into him, and it feels amazing.
What are you most excited for fans to see in these final few episodes? Can you tease anything?
No, not really, because first of all, I don’t believe in spoilers. And the reason I don’t believe in spoilers is because the audience [who watches a show] loves those characters, and they feel their pain and angst, because you live through those moments with those characters, and you feel what they feel. And that’s the beauty of watching television. When you work on theatre project or film, you know the beginning and the end. With television, you have no idea. And so when an audience connects with those characters and they get to experience those events with the characters, I just don’t want to rob the audience of that opportunity. I can tell you this is going to happen or that is going to happen, but then you won’t be able to live through that with those characters.
I totally agree with you, but I feel like, for our readers, I’m obligated to ask. [Laughs]
I can tell you that, even though there are only four episodes left, there are still quite a few twists and turns left to finish the season with a bang.
You’re a series regular on The Americans right now, but we’ve also seen you guest star on other shows like Marvel’s Agent Carter. Are there any future projects that you’re excited for that you can tell us about?
Well, Agent Carter was really cool because the character that I played, Anton Vanko, is the father of Ivan Vanko, played by Mickey Rourke, who becomes a nemesis of Iron Man. Hopefully, Marvel will get a chance to explore that relationship between Ivan and Howard more and tell that story of how the reactor was created, how the Iron Man technology was created in the Soviet Union. Also, The Midnighters is very close to being finished. That’s a film I did a couple of years ago. I’m really excited about it, because it’s a great film, it’s a great story, and we are very close to finishing it, so hopefully, that comes out soon. And I’m starting a new film next week, so that’s something I’m really, really excited about because it touches on the mysticism and religious aspects of traditions [in Siberia]. I can’t wait to start it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Costa, and make sure to try out one of those cheesesteak places I suggested the next time you’re in Philly. [Laughs]
Absolutely. I’ll make sure to hit you up before I come out that way again. I’m going to have a whole scoreboard of Philly cheesesteaks next time. [Laughs] I’m on a mission now.
The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. Follow Ronin on Twitter (@).
[Photo via FX]
Tell us what's wrong with this post? How could we improve it? :)
Let us improve this post!