THE FX drama series THE AMERICANS is such an incredible television show, filled with such finely-nuanced character portrayals, that viewers are often conflicted about rooting for a family of Russian spies working against the United States. But that is the paradox of great television: sometimes you find yourself identifying with those who hold vastly different political ideals and beliefs. It has been a pleasure, if not moral conundrum, to be a fan for the past five seasons of THE AMERICANS. While at this past Winter Television Critics Association Tour, in an exclusive interview, Keidrich Sellati talked about the extraordinary journey he has taken with his character Henry Jennings on THE AMERICANS and reflects on his own six season adventure as a young actor on the show.
This is obviously going to be a big season for your character, Henry. It was very startling to see that he’d gone from kind of a his computer geek side to suddenly being a jock on the hockey rink. Maybe you can talk about that transformation.
KEIDRICH: I think the transformation was during the three-year time gap, obviously, but I think it’s because he went to St. Edwards and there probably weren’t very many computers there, so he filled his time with something else. Plus, there’s like an extra scholarship when you’re good at sports. When I saw how much they were writing me in and I saw how much Henry was different from old Henry, I was like, “Wow. There was a lot that happened in this time jump,” which was so cool to see. I’m a hockey player myself. I was so happy to see that I was playing hockey.
Three years, there’s obviously been some key changes in the family and it looks like Henry and his dad are spending more time together. That’s a very good thing.
KEIDRICH: Yeah. Dad is around more. Mom is around so much less. In fact, later on in the show we see him talk about that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s good because Henry was always alone. He had nobody there with him. Even Page, once she started doing her spy thing. I think when she started really doing her thing was when church happened. When church happened, she kind of moved away from the entire family. Then mom and dad did their thing, and then Henry was alone with nobody besides his computer and his two friends.
So the school has been good for him.
KEIDRICH: Well, yeah. High school has been great for him. He’s made friends, he’s smart, he’s happy, he’s healthy. He’s finally living the life that he wants to live, which is amazing, awesome.
Does he have a shiver up his spine that something might be off about his life?
KEIDRICH: Maybe. Maybe a little bit.
Do you think he ignores it because he wants to ignore it?
KEIDRICH: I don’t … He’s not ever home, especially now. It’s not that he’s ignoring it. It’s that he’s not home to see it. In the earlier episodes, I honestly think it was just because he was so young, he didn’t really think twice about it, besides a few times. There were a few times where he was like, “This is weird,” but again it’s just as a kid it’s like, “Oh, whatever. There’s something going on,” but it never occurred to him they could be spies. But this season might bring something new.
But now he might notice a few more things.
KEIDRICH: Might notice a few more things or might not.
Is Henry still close to Stan?
KEIDRICH: He is still close to Stan [Noah Emmerich]. Stan is definitely one of his go-to people to talk to. Page used to be who he’d go to, but now it’s Stan.
It’s obviously shifted with Page is doing her own thing.
KEIDRICH: Shifted a little bit more. Yeah.
How do you think Henry is? Do you think he’s like stable right now?
KEIDRICH: I think he is very stable. I think he’s very happy with where he’s at. I think that Henry is finally, finally doing what he wants to do and he’s finally surrounded by people that actually care, who are actually there for him. That’s nice.
I can imagine that’s probably good for him.
KEIDRICH: Yeah. For sure.
I imagine his life is about ready to make some big changes again. Do you think he’s prepared for that, or is that going to just blow him out of the water?
KEIDRICH: I think the big changes are going to … yeah. I think they’re going to blow him out of the water a little bit, but not too high. He’s definitely a strong kid. He’s definitely someone who has been independent for a while and will continue to be fine being independent.
What do you admire about Henry?
KEIDRICH: I admire and I envy Henry because he’s so independent. I mean, I love my mom and I still very much need her as I’m 16-years-old. I love playing him because he’s like me, just a little bit more mature. It lets me show that I’m not just a little dumb 16-year-old, but I also can be a mature 16-year-old.
You’ve been playing the character for quite a long time now. I mean, it’s a big chunk of your life.
KEIDRICH: Yeah. I’ve been playing him for six years. Not the majority, but a third of my life, and that is crazy. Here’s a better way to put it: it’s taken up the majority of the life I can remember. It’s all I know.
Are you ready to leave such a big chunk of your life?
KEIDRICH: I don’t think anybody can ever be fully ready to leave a big chunk of their life like that, but I’m definitely ready to move on and go into the next chapter of my life and get another character going.
As a young actor, what do you learn from this role that you’ll take in the next role?
KEIDRICH: It’s not what I learned with this role. It’s what I learned with these people and what I’ve learned from these people that I’ll take with me. I think the biggest one is: to just be natural. Just be natural and be you, but with a mask on, basically. That’s a terrible way of explaining it. Trust me, Keri [Russell] and Matthew [Rhys] explained it so much better to me, and it helped me so much. One of the experiences that I had with Matthew and Keri was the scene where I was crying, saying, “I’m a good person.” And Matthew is like, “Hold on. Stop filming.” He’s like, “Do you want any of this?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course.” Then somehow, how he was talking to me made me start to laugh, but then it made me cry-laugh, but the laughing turned into crying — and not sad crying, not happy crying — just crying. It was the weirdest. I’m not even kidding. It was the weirdest thing, and I will always remember that. The two of them have helped me a lot. The same thing with Holly [Taylor]. She’s a little bit older than me. She’s four years older than me, and even she has taught me stuff, like how to be not a little dweeb. So, “Thank you, Holly.”
What would you like to share kind of towards your fans and your viewers coming from the next season? What can anticipate?
KEIDRICH: That can anticipate a good amount about Henry. Henry shows up. He’s not a forgotten child anymore. But enough about Henry. Here’s what you can definitely expect from everyone else: spying, deceit, lies, love, marriage — everything that you’ve seen in the past few years times 10 — because there’s only 10 episodes this season.
To see where Henry’s journey ends and if he makes it out alive, be sure to tune in for the final season of THE AMERICANS on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. on FX. To find out more about the show, you can follow it on Twitter @TheAmericansFX and to follow Keidrich as his career continues, you can find him on Twitter @keidrichsellati.
THE AMERICANS SEASON 6 TRAILER:
THE AMERICANS, SEASON 6 RED CARPET WITH THE CAST: