We know and love him for being the showrunner of Justified, but Graham Yost is also executive producer of another hit FX series, The Americans. With season one of the Cold War spy thriller headed to home video tomorrow, we sat down with Graham to look back on its opening cycle and prepare ourselves for next month's new episodes.
Graham is one of the best producers and writers working in television today; his credits include the criminally underappreciated Boomtown and HBO's war epics Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Currently, in addition to overseeing Justified, he has an EP credit on both The Americans and TNT's Falling Skies. What does that mean in practice? "A showrunner is responsible for, well, running the show," Graham explained. "An executive producer can be anything from a senior writer, directing producer, or someone who helps get the show sold and off the ground."
In the case of The Americans, Graham read creator Joe Weisberg's novel and then his pilot script, becoming one of the first people to be involved in bringing the show into production. Since he's been there from the beginning, we asked him to tell us what stood out to him about the first season.
"The pilot; [director and executive producer] Gavin O'Connor did a brilliant job starting the series, and his use of 'Tusk' by Fleetwood Mac was inspired," he told us. "Episode six, 'Trust Me'; Philip [Matthew Rhys] and Elizabeth [Keri Russell] are brutally interrogated, as it turns out, at the behest of their handler Claudia - the inimitable Margo Martindale. And the last two episodes, 'The Oath' and 'The Colonel,' really bring the season to a strong conclusion."
Was there anything along the way that caught him by surprise? "I don't think anyone had ever thought of scoring an action scene with 'Tusk.'"
He also praised the crew behind the scenes, who have worked long and hard to create The Americans' setting of Cold War-era New York. "Costuming, production design, set dressing, hair and makeup," he said, "everyone has contributed to making this an 80's show without ever being a joke about the 80's."
As previously mentioned, one central role in the season is played by Margo Martindale, who previously won heaps of critical acclaim for her role as Mags Bennett in the second cycle of Justified. Did her appearance on that series have anything to do with her being cast in the part of Claudia? "Kind of," Graham said, telling us, "When the part was being cast, there was some concern about using someone so identified with Justified. John Landgraf, head of FX, called me and said he thought she would be perfect. I agreed.
"There's something fun about actors on FX shows appearing on other FX shows," he added. "Besides, it's Margo Martindale. She's as good as it gets."
Graham has written several episodes of Justified in addition to serving as showrunner, so we asked him if he'd ever consider penning a script for The Americans. "Maybe after Justified goes off the air," he told us. The Timothy Olyphant-led drama will conclude after next season.
Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't ask him for a hint about season two. "Season one is about a marriage. Phillip and Elizabeth, although having been married for fifteen years, finally fall in love," Graham teased. "Season two is about the family, and can it survive fissures within and threats from without."
Season one of The Americans arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD tomorrow.. Season two begins later this month. Season five of Justified continues tomorrow night at 10 PM ET/PT on FX.