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 six, “The Rat.” (Read our previous check-ins here and here.)
This was a very Martha-focused episode. Could you talk about what kind of emotional journey Martha takes during her time in the safe house?
I’d like to give a special mention to Diane Lederman and her team for their stunning work creating that safe house, the most, inspiring, evocative set. I was so grateful for it. It truly fueled my performance. Martha wakes up a different woman in that house. All illusion is gone, she’s terribly afraid, angry, ashamed, and numb. The world has stopped for her. She gets a strength that is both a calm and a fury that we haven’t seen in her before. Gabriel is on the receiving end of all the frustrations she can’t take out on Clark, because he’s disappeared, again!
Martha’s past comes up in this episode — her former boyfriend, and the fact that she had an abortion. How much did you know about this before this episode? How did this affect your view of Martha?
I learned of all those tidbits only when I got the first draft of the episode. I had decided similar things for myself in creating Martha’s history though. I have it in my notes from season one the idea she could have had an abortion and that it would be something she would never want or be able to talk about. Martha is somewhat of an open book, and I wanted her to have a secret too. Secrets are juicy, unpredictable motivators.
Martha finally asks Clark who he works for. Why does she want to know now? Is the answer way worse than what she was expecting?
She’s already thought through all the possible answers, the Russians being at the furthest, bleakest, far, far end of that spectrum. That would be the worst possible thing to come out of his mouth. She’s hoping the answer will be something, anything better than that … a carcinoma in situ, not a Stage 4 diagnosis. But there is no point in not asking anymore. It seems the chips are down, she might as well summon up the courage, ask now and know once and for all who it is she has been giving this information to — which enemy she is sleeping with.
Martha walks away from Gabriel at the end of the episode. Do you think this was the right decision?
She had to get out of that house. She panics, Clark is gone. Why is she alone with Gabriel? What is he going to do to her? What has he done to Clark? Someone has taken her gun! The only obvious physical thing she can think of to do is to get herself the hell outta there. She has no plan of where she’s going past the end of the street though and doesn’t really know where she is. Ahh, the olden days, before Google maps …
Martha immediately thinks Clark might also be in a relationship with Elizabeth a.k.a. Jennifer when she comes by the safe house. What is Martha’s view of Clark at this point, as someone she can trust?
To me that’s a very natural human concern to have if you discover your husband has had any kind of deceptive relations with another woman. I think the question is a knee-jerk reaction. I chose that Martha believed Jennifer when she denied it and let that idea go for the moment. Paradoxically, she is still the safest if she stays with Clark. He is looking out for her and is very much her only protector.