Paige Jennings might just be the most polarizing character on TV. Season 3 of FX’s The Americans ended with her telling her pastor that her parents are Russian spies – violating their trust and putting everyone’s lives in danger. Even before that, audiences were divided on their opinion of Paige, and LA Fan Cultures Examiner sat down with actress Holly Taylor to discuss the character’s big decision and what it’s like to play someone that everyone has strong opinions about.
How much negative feedback has Holly gotten from Paige’s choice to confess to Pastor Tim? “You have no idea,” she told us. “Remember that one scene [in “Baggage”] where they broke the girl up into the suitcase? People were saying they should do that to me. It got really intense. People were like let’s send her to Russia, let’s kill her. I was like guys, I’m just a character on the show!”
But now that Paige is aware of her parents’ real occupation, it becomes something that she can’t look away from. “There’s maybe a few scenes where they would start to explain stuff to her and she’d be like, I’m done. There’s no way that you guys are doing stuff like that. I don’t believe in it, I don’t want to hear it,” Holly explained. “But then throughout season 4 we see her still asking questions because she’s curious. She wants to know what her parents do.
“Your parents are the ones you’re supposed to know the most and can trust, so obviously you want to know what’s going on in their life,” she continued. “If they are hurting people she has to know how she’s going to cope with that. It’s a lot for her to take on. That’s why it’s kind of understandable she told Pastor Tim [Kelly AuCoin], because any teenager in that situation can’t hold in all that information, that their parents live a completely different life. It’s like Hannah Montana to the extreme. It’s very difficult for her and she has a lot of internal conflict.”
Most of her storyline in Season 4 concerns her dealing with her newfound knowledge. “There’s a few other little things that go on because she does have a life outside of her relationship with her parents,” the actress continued, “but I think the biggest story arc for her is this emotional journey. How she’s going to deal with this and how her life is changing and how everything that she does now affects somebody else.
“It affects her parents, it affects their work, so she can no longer do things with the motivation of how she’s going to feel,” she added. “She has to consider so many other people and she’s really forced to accelerate how she grows up.”
Paige is also thrust into an uncomfortable position of her own because her brother Henry (Keidrich Sellati) remains naive about what Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are up to, so his big sister not only can’t tell him but has to keep him in the dark. “She doesn’t know what to think about that,” Holly said, “because she’s seen him with his life like she did before, and now she sees things like her parents.
“Am I supposed to tell him? Are they supposed to tell him? Is he ever going to know? He’s just kind of sitting there oblivious and she knows so much is going on and doesn’t know what to do with that information.”
For as much flak as Paige has taken over the last season, Holly is enjoying the opportunities that recent developments have given her to become a bigger part of the main arc of The Americans. “It’s definitely an interesting storyline,” she told us. “I love what they’re doing with it, because it’s so different from any other teenager you see on TV. It’s not centered around Paige and her boyfriend and will they get in trouble at home.
“She has so many other things going on in her life and she has all these conflicts that people can relate to. If you’re not that close with your parents, if you don’t feel like you can talk to them, she has that. There’s so many different things that intertwine with each other and her parents’ storylines and there’s a lot to take in.”
“She’s become enlightened, even though that enlightenment has left her in the dark,” Holly added. “There’s a lot she wants to know and doesn’t know so Paige still has that ongoing storyline of just trying to find out what’s going on. It seems every season she has more and more weight put on her.”
She just hopes that audiences will cut her character some slack in Season 4. “Paige has a lot of things going on,” she told us, “and I think people need to consider more how old she is, the situation she’s put in and how much weight and pressure is put on her. The only person she has to talk to is her pastor, so it’s very hard [for her] to relate to her parents and what they fight for.”
The Americans returns this Wednesday, Mar. 16 at 10 p.m. on FX. Fans who need to get caught up can use the suggested links below this article to access our recap and analysis archives from Season 3.