Graham Yost caught his first big break in Hollywood when he put Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on a bus that would blow up if it traveled slower than 55 miles per hour, but since the turn of the century, he's focused his creative efforts on television. And these days, his resume is home to executive producer credits for two of the best shows currently on the air, The Americans and Justified (he's also the showrunner/creator of the latter). I recently caught up with the very busy Yost for a brief chat about what's in store for both shows—namely, what to expect from The Americans' soon-to-premiere second season and the recent news that Justified will ride off into the sunset after Season 6.
Hey Graham! So I've been reviewing Justified and my wife recently caught up on the show, and we also re-watched the Season 1 finale of The Americans and then I watched the Season 2 premiere of The Americans, so right now I'm all Graham Yost all the time.
Graham Yost: You know what? I love to hear that, it should always be about me. [Laughs] Just don't tell my wife that.
One thing I love about The Americans is that it's three-tiered: It has spy drama, marriage drama, and family drama, and it does all three so well. After watching the Season 2 premiere, am I be correct in assuming that Season 2 will put more focus on the Jennings' family drama?
Yes. Absolutely. There were hints toward that at the end of last year with Paige starting to get suspicious, like, "What's going on with this family, there's something off." And, you know, that's an adolescent starting to realize that her parents are human beings—or worse, as adolescents do. But yeah, I think the feeling was that the first season was "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again," it was really about the marriage. This year, the marriage is somewhat stronger, it will be tested, no question, but the real problem is the threat to the family that develops in the first episode.
The Americans exists in the very real world of the 1980s, and Season 1 touched on the Strategic Defense Initiative—a.k.a. the Star Wars Defense System. What real-life '80s news stories will come into play in Season 2?
The first sighting of Phillip this season has to do with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Go to the history books, what else was going on? You know, Contras in Nicaragua, you'll see some of that. Anything beyond that I'm not going to give away. There was a lot going on between America and the Soviet Union at that period of time. The proxy battles around the world were pretty heated, and so there was a lot of jockeying, a lot of back-and-forth.
I love the relationship between Stan and Nina–
Noah Emmerich is the self-described "luckiest man on television," for getting to work with Annet [Mahendru] and Susan [Misner].
Haha, I wouldn't argue with that. But Stan and Nina have one of the most tenuous relationships on the show. It's hard to tell which side Nina is actually playing. Are her feelings for Stan actually genuine?
You know what? I'll tell you. I have been working on this show and watching [series creators] Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields] do this for two years now, and I still don't know. I still don't know. There are some episodes where I go, "God, she really does love Stan!" And there are some episodes where I go, "I really don't know what she's doing." That's why she's one of my favorite characters.
I've can't help but ask a couple questions about Justified. It's been about a month since FX confirmed that Season 6 will be the show's last. How are you feeling about that decision today?
That was something we were talking about last year, and we gave it one last serious think-through. Our feeling was really that that's the end, and that's the deal with Tim [Olyphant], so it would be very difficult to a seventh season financially. But it's also story-wise. It feels, even with six seasons, like we have to work very hard not to repeat ourselves. And I'm sure we have, and I'm sure we will, mostly without even being aware of it until after the fact. We try to flag it in the writers' room, "Have we done this before?" So we feel six is right.
You have this whole world of Harlan County that's such a rich setting, would you be open to continuing that universe in some other form, like a spin-off?
You know what everyone wants is The Constable Bob Show with Patton Oswalt. It's funny—Patton actually toyed around with the idea of doing a faux opening sequence for a show about Constable Bob, sort of like the Sheriff Lobo show with Claude Akins in the '70s, but he ended up not doing it because he didn't want to make fun of anything related to Justified because he loves it. I think that would be the kind of fear, that we'd fall into this Dukes of Hazzard kind of thing. But I never say never, because you know, someone comes up with a good idea and you say, "Okay let's do this." But that's not what we're angling toward.
Well if my vote counts for anything, I'd love to see a Tim Gutterson spin-off.
We saw Margo Martindale go from Justified to The Americans; are there any other Justified actors who you'd like to see on The Americans?
I'd love to see them all on The Americans. We do Justified in Los Angeles and they do The Americans in New York. Margo is a New Yorker, so it was easy for her to appear [on The Americans] last year. But yeah, any of them. You could see Jacob Pitts [who plays Tim Gutterson] or Erica [Tazel, who plays Rachel Brooks] as an FBI agent, or they could be nefarious spies who get shot. And frankly, there are people I see on The Americans who I'll ask if they're New York-based or LA-based, because there might be something for them next year on Justified.
Justified returns from its one-week Olympics hiatus on Tuesday, February 25 at 10pm on FX. The Americans Season 2 premieres on Wednesday February 26 at 10pm, also on FX! If you're still catching up on The Americans, Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD—see an exclusive clip from the special features here.
AIRED ON 5/4/2016
Season 4 : Episode 8
AIRS ON 5/11/2016
Season 4 : Episode 9