Photo credit to Bobby Quillard.
Oleg Burov is unlike any role Costa Ronin has ever played.
The Russian-born actor joined the FX drama The Americans in its second season this year. The show, which also stars Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters), tells the story of two undercover KGB agents living in the United States during the 1980’s. Ronin plays a privileged KGB agent from an important family with a love of American pop culture.
“It’s a show of thinking characters. It’s a show of thinking actors, and it’s a very rare opportunity to work on something like this,” says Ronin about the drama.
Blast Magazine’s Georgeanne Oliver chatted with Ronin about the role, working on set, and tonight’s season finale.
GO: What’s your character on The Americans like and what’s it like to play him?
CR: It’s fantastic. He’s a fantastic character to play. He’s very, very multidimensional and multilayered. It’s a very rare show. Nothing is what it seems, you know? And also the gravity of the decisions that the characters make is phenomenal. If you and I make a mistake in real life, it reflects on us. If those characters make a mistake it can lead to [life or death situations]. It can lead to a war erupting, so the gravity of the situation, the gravity of the decisions that they make, adds to the show.
GO: There’s so much intrigue with the relationships, with Nina (Annet Mahendru), and with the different characters.
CR: You mentioned the relationship with Nina. That’s another one of those curveballs because again, the show being what it is, these two characters Nina and Oleg cannot be open and upfront with each other, you know? They can never really show how they feel about each other.
GO: What has it been like working with your costars with that kind of dynamic between the characters?
CR: It’s amazing. The crew and the cast on the show are absolutely terrific. [Mahendru is] so open. It’s great working with her. In shows like this and in scenes like this it’s very, very important for actors to develop the trust.
GO: How do you develop that trust on the set?
CR: You know, it’s the same way you develop trust, I guess, in real life. You have to be trusting to gain trust.
GO: You mentioned how a role like Oleg doesn’t come along often. How does he compare to the roles that you’ve played in the past?
CR: It’s not often that you get to develop a character that’s so multilayered and multidimensional.
GO: What were the challenges in creating Oleg?
CR: Coming into the second season is always tricky because most of the characters were established in the first season: their journeys, their worlds, their personalities.
GO: Your character is a KGB agent and you were actually born in Russia. Does that affect your performance at all?
CR: I don’t think so. Growing up in Russia helped me nail the Russian accent a little bit better, perhaps. But otherwise it’s the same. It’s the same process. At the end of the day, it’s about showing the truth of the story. Every time [the characters] deliver a line, every time they say something, it’s not because it’s just written on the page. They say a line because it’s what they’re thinking at that point in time, you know? It’s a response to the environment. It’s a response to what they feel in their heart and their soul.
GO: Do you have a favorite memory of working on the set?
CR: The whole gig is a phenomenal memory. It’s always amazing to be able to work in an environment of like-minded people who are passionate about the story they are telling.
GO: You switched from studying International Relations and Political Science (at a university in New Zealand) to working in the performing arts. What caused that switch?
CR: I didn’t switch. I wasn’t trying to be a diplomat. I was always interested in the psychology of international relations and this is, you know, performing arts of the highest caliber. The decisions that the politicians around the world have to make every day affect everyone. It helped me, I guess, with this role as well, helped me with the psychological aspect of understanding what those characters go through.
GO: What can fans expect (from tonight’s finale). Is it going to be a wild ride?
CR: Everybody promises a wild ride! It is one of those shows where you really connect to the characters and you really connect to the story, and I would really want the audience to live through those moments with the characters. If you’re gonna watch it, bring your handkerchief and bring your bottle of vodka! It’s going to be a terrific episode.
See more of Ronin in The Americans’ season finale, which airs tonight, May 21, at 10 pm on FX.