Could this be the year of 'The Americans' at the Emmys?

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Story highlights

  • 'The Americans' has patiently waited for Emmy gold, and this could be its year
  • Executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg talk about their approach to storytelling and what to expect from Season 5

(CNN)Unlike much of Hollywood, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg initially didn't have any plans to tune into the Emmy nominations live stream back in July. After three years of seeing their show "The Americans" snubbed, they'd been through one too many heartbreaks to do it again.

Then minutes before the announcements were about to conclude that morning, both of them -- miles apart at the time -- had a change of heart. And it's a good thing they did: "The Americans" was nominated in the Outstanding Drama category for the first time.
    "We had really gotten used to saying, 'It's fine not getting the nominations.' But it turns out it's actually really nice to actually get the nominations," executive producer Fields told CNN in a recent interview.
    Stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were also nominated for their roles as Russian spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings. The show earned five nominations in all.
    Last weekend, the FX series picked up its first win of the year. Margo Martindale -- who also plays a indomitable KGB agent Claudia on the show -- won her second Emmy in a row in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama category.
    In her acceptance speech, the actress said she was "thrilled" for the show, adding, according to those in attendance: "Let this be the year of 'The Americans.'"
    She's not the only one hoping that's true.
    Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings, Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings.
    "The Americans" debuted on FX in 2013 and quickly found a loyal, but modest-sized audience, hovering between 2 and 3 million viewers per episode. But the praise always was always sizable.
    Critics applauded its nuanced, tension-filled storytelling of a spy couple living in the U.S. at the height of the Cold War. The show seems to discover emotion in corners you'd never expect to find it and intentionally let the characters and stories build gradually. Fields and Weisberg say they aimed to never be tempted by the allure of a cheap shock.
    "We register in knots, not in machs," Fields said.
    Just don't call it a slow burn.
    "After the Emmy nomination I feel more self-confident as a person and a storyteller, and I know that slow burn has a slight negative [connotation]," Weisberg, also an executive producer, said.
    These days, he's retired the term when talking about the show. He prefers, "measured storytelling." Though, Fields joked, "That's not sexy."
    Whatever they call it, the goal is always the same: truth. They treat the Jennings and everyone in their orbit as a real people in a real situation with possibly life-shattering stakes.
    "If we sacrifice that truth to a moment of excitement, that the whole endeavor kind of gets lost," Fields said. "If we stick to what's true, then we're going to tell the story as it wants to be told and we don't have to worry about pace or excitement because you have faith that their story is interesting."
    It's for those reasons and more that FX has let "The Americans" go as long as it has. The network has, in fact, given the series its support since the beginning, when two episodes into its run, FX president John Landgraf called Fields and Weisberg and told them they'd been picked up for another season.
    "He got on the phone and he said, 'I'm picking up next season now because I want to send a message to you guys and, more importantly, the audience that they should invest in the show.'" Fields remembered.
    Weisberg added: "That's how John thinks."
    Everyone's patience paid off on nomination morning. But now the question is whether the good things promised to those who wait come in the form of Emmy gold.
    Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Holly Taylor as Paige Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings.
    The competition for the win is certainly stiff: a spin-off of Emmy giant "Breaking Bad." A British import up for the big prize for its final season. A freshman hacker drama that picked up Best Drama at the Golden Globes. A dark Netflix favorite. A previous champ with serial award winner Claire Danes at its helm. And a show with dragons -- dragons.
    That dragon show, however, in some ways is a story of hope for "The Americans."
    Last year, "Game of Thrones" surprised many by taking the win in the drama category, robbing critical golden goose "Mad Men" of its chance to end its Emmy run with another piece of hardware. It was also a victory for genre shows, which had at one time been considered long shots for award show trophies.
    The time for accolades, of course, is limited for "The Americans." The show is heading into production on Season 5 after having been renewed earlier this summer through Season 6, which will be its last.
    "I think we have what are shaping up to be two distinct seasons -- one will build in the other," Fields said. "In Season 5, many of the crises that were in set motion at the very beginning are going to come to a head."
    Particularly the Jennings' ongoing issues with their teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) will "reach a boil," said Weisberg.
    "The problems she's had with both parents and they've had with each other, that triangle is going to reach its apex," Weisberg said.
    Fields joked: "We're going to measured storytell it right to its apex."
    They both erupted in laughter.
    "That's the pull quote that's going to get us the Emmy for writing," Field said. "Oh, dear Lord. We're sunk."