Holly Taylor calls us after leaving Wayne Hills High School in New Jersey, where she’s balancing her senior year and starring in FX’s KGB spy drama “The Americans.” The 18-year-old actress stars as Paige Jennings, the up-until-last-season unknowing teenage daughter of agents Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys). In a semidevastating moment of panic, Taylor’s character blows her parents’ cover to her confidante — Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin) — in the Season 3 finale after they reveal their plan to eventually fold her into their Russian informant scheme.
Taylor, on the other hand, is as cool as a cucumber, having mastered maneuvering out of her crowded parking lot following the 2:16 p.m. final bell at school. She’s worked out a workload plan with her teachers that allows for her to keep up with her filming obligations.
“It's kind of disappointing because everyone has told me that senior year would be the easiest, but I might want to sue everyone who told me that because there’s so much going on ” she laughs.
Her character picks up in Season 4 — premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. — and will be faced with the unpleasant ramifications of her ratting out her parents. Taylor weighs in on Paige’s upcoming consequences.
The scene at the end of Season 3, where Paige calls Pastor Tim, must have been so dramatic to film, because not only is it emotionally-charged, it’s totally one-sided. What was that like for you?
That was an exciting scene to film, and I knew it would be challenging because when I have to be emotional and cry, I’ll usually react off of what other people are doing. But for that, it’s just me talking and we couldn’t hear Pastor Tim on the other end of the phone. Dan Sackheim directed that episode and he was really helpful and got me to that headspace. He made sure I had time to collect my thoughts in-between takes and it ended up all flowing.
Was there any ad-libbing to that conversation? At one point, Paige specifically tells Pastor Tim, “They’re not Americans,” which is so funny given the name of the show.
No, that was all very specific to the script. That’s her way of trying to break it down and understand it. [That phrase] was opposite of the show [title], but that’s the irony of the show. I think that’s a big revelation that Paige is seeing now.
Do you think Paige would be a good spy?
I think she would make a good spy, but it might take some time for her to come around to the idea. There are a lot of parallels between the way her and Elizabeth [the mother] live their lives. We’ve seen [Paige] be really passionate with activism and the church, and Elizabeth has been the same way with her causes. I think they can relate on that level. I think she’s already proven to be curious and constantly observant.
Do you think she can forgive her parents?
I think she’s always been hyperaware of what her parents are doing, and now that she knows the truth, she wants to find out if they’ve been hurting people and what that job entails. She needs to look at her moral compass.
I saw you retweeting a fan comment that Paige is actually the only "good guy" of the show because she turns in Russian spies. What did you think about that concept?
I thought that was so interesting because a lot of the times people bash Paige, like “How could she do that?” But when you remove yourself from the connection to Elizabeth and Philip, we realize we’re generally an American audience, who at that time were rooting for Americans. It’s hard to be on a show where you’re rooting for the other side, and it’s not until you remove yourself from it that you can gain perspective. A lot of the fans are so passionate, but in real life, that’s what we would have wanted. We would have wanted the spies to be turned in. I think that’s one of the real debates of the show.
"The Americans" Season 4 premiere on FX Wednesday at 10 p.m.