How The CIA Prevents The Americans From Divulging Too Many Secrets

FX’s espionage thriller The Americans is one of our favorite shows on TV, and we’re not keeping that a secret. But there are a lot of secrets woven into the series’ narrative, or at least things that used to be secrets, as the show was created by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg. And it’s definitely no accident which elements of the CIA’s history come up during the episodes. Why? Because the CIA keeps busy reading all of Weisberg’s scripts beforehand to make sure he’s not giving out secrets. Keep your friends close, right?

Speaking with Studio 360 about both the show and his career as a whole, Weisberg was asked how troublesome it was to have the CIA always looking over his shoulder for his scripts for The Americans, something they obviously don’t need to do for the average private citizen screenwriters. Here’s how he put it.

Earlier in my career, when I was writing certain things, I did have some trouble with this process. I, for example, one time wrote a treatment for a show and sent it in to the Publications Review Board, which is a part of the CIA that handles this, and they just wrote back, ‘You can’t do that.’ So, then I was able to make some changes and massage it and work it out with them. But over the years I started to figure out what types of things they have problems with, and what types of things they don’t, so the process has been very smooth on The Americans.”

That’s definitely a piece of job description that I will never have to deal with, no matter where my life takes me. The one thing that Weisberg said he automatically knows to stay far away from is anything related to covers of agents in the field, or how any of it is handled. That, as he puts it, is a “real sore spot.”

The Americans does center on two characters who are deep undercover in the middle of the Cold War, but they’re Russians, so it’s totally different. I’m sure Philip and Elizabeth’s behavior is heavily scrutinized, though. However, I'm not entirely sure why Weisberg would even want to share major CIA secrets through a cable drama anyway.

You can check out the entire interview below, which features more interesting facts, such as how much Weisberg enjoys making a thriller set in a time before electronics made things almost too easy. The specific quote about CIA proofreading comes right at 9:53.

The Americans will premiere Season 3 during FX’s midseason lineup on Wednesday, January 28. We approve you telling people that we told you that.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.