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How Is Martha Doing on The Americans?

Photo: Victoria Stevens

With each passing week on The Americans, Poor Martha wades a little further into dangerous territory. Throughout the season, we’ll be on regular Martha Watch, checking in with Alison Wright to gauge her character’s state of mind and general welfare. This week, we talk about episode five, “Clark’s Place.” (Read our last check-in here.)

Last week you mentioned you had a favorite scene in this episode: the one where Martha tells Clark she told Agent Aderholt she’s seeing a married man. What in particular made this one of your favorite scenes of the season?
This felt to me like the first time Martha was in a scene and she was putting herself first. Her needs, her feelings and her thoughts, not through any filter of what Clark might need or want or expect. I think she’s a person who generally puts the needs of others in front of her own. This scene felt like it could have happened without Clark even being in the room, if that concept translates. It was about her experience. She put herself first. As Martha, I rarely work through a scene thinking only of her agenda, because she’s always concerned with everyone else’s feelings. This was the first scene I can think of that wasn’t about what Clark would have to say, he couldn’t change what has happened, he can’t fix it.  She’s being transparent with herself, and it’s not coming from a place of just emotional reaction, there’s a strange calm coming from her that we haven’t seen so much before. She feels stronger to me.

When Martha sees the framed wedding photo missing from the dresser, what’s going through her head?
She thinks pretty quickly at this point. She thinks Clark must have moved it and wonders why he’d have to. Of course, she had hidden their wedding photos before herself when Stan showed up at her apartment unannounced. She was quick enough on her feet to think of that herself, and she’s remembering that in this moment.

Clark sets up a pay-phone system so Martha feels like she’s able to stay in touch with him. Does this actually make Martha feel any better/safer? Or does the whole process irk her?
It’s meant to be comforting and reassuring to her, but it’s also vaguely horrifying as it makes his network/cause/employer appear more organized than she had thought. Each new bit of information about Clark’s capabilities suggests that whoever it is that he actually works for has a long and powerful reach. It’s wonderful and a relief that now she’ll be able to get him on the phone in as little as one hour any time of day. But then, how big is this organization that they have all these people and secret phones and top-notch disguises at their disposal? Clark seems part of a much bigger machine now than she had suspected. Which is not good news.

Martha starts taking Valium in order to deal with the stress. When she tells Clark, it seems like it really pains her that she felt like she needed to take drugs to deal with everything. Was this a tough decision for her? How is it affecting her? And is this a sign that, psychologically, things are getting more dire for Martha?
Martha does not want to be on Valium, not at all, you’re right. There is a residue of embarrassment and shame about it for her. She can’t believe that this is what her life has come to. Also, panic attacks can be terrifying things. She didn’t know what was happening to her, honestly thought it was a heart attack, and Clark was nowhere to be found. She had to handle it and herself all alone. [She’s] still fretting about her dinner with Aderholt and worrying if she’d thrown him off her scent successfully. There’s an exhaustion that follows that kind of emotional upheaval, and that’s where she starts the scene. It gives her a stillness which I like.

How much wine is Martha drinking these days, and how does that correlate to how she’s doing?
I don’t think she’s ready for Betty Ford just yet, but booze and drugs, though a comfort blanket for the evening, are only a temporary Band-Aid, and not such a great one at that. She would be the worst drunk dialer, right?! Don’t do it Martha!