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Matthew Rhys juggles multiple accents

It’s not unusual for Australian or English actors to take on a role in a TV show where they have to do an American accent. But, the casting of Matthew Rhys in the new FX series “The Americans” sets up a very complicated accent situation. He’s a Brit who’s playing a Russian who’s pretending to be an American.

Rhys laughs and says the way he handles the complex language task is to just put himself in the place of the character.

“In some ways, he would have to be more American than many Americans,” Rhys says in his natural British accent. “However, if my American accent ever slips I can always blame it on being Russian.”

This accent juggling is so Rhys can play a Russian KGB agent who’s secretly been living in American for almost 15 years. With his arranged wife (Keri Russell) who also is a spy, they bounce during the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration between living a normal life as parents of two and spying for the Motherland.

I like the twist that it’s Russell’s character who’s the most adamant about doing her Communist duty.

“That’s what made the role more interesting for me,” Rhys tells me. “They’ve turned a few classic concepts on their head. That was incredibly intriguing. I like that my character realizes there’s an expiration date on the life they’re living. And, the consequence of that would be two of them in prison and the kids in a home. The focus of his life is his family but he’s very aware of how the circle is tightening.”

Most of the acting work Rhys has done has been in British TV shows and films. He did have a role in the ABC drama “Brothers & Sisters.”

No role has required him to be such a linguistics juggler as “The Americans.” You can see how well he does when “The Americans” debuts at 10 p.m. Jan. 30 on the FX Network.

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