Warning: This post contains major spoilers for the series finale of “The Americans.” Read at your own risk.
- “The Americans” series finale aired Wednesday night, and it had an important scene featuring a McDonald’s.
- The co-showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg said that it wasn’t easy to make this scene happen because they had to make it look like a location from 1987.
- They also said that McDonald’s was surprisingly enthusiastic about incorporating its brand into the episode.
No one thought McDonald’s, which makes America’s best french fries, would be a meaningful part of the FX drama “The Americans” – but it played a pivotal part in the series finale, which aired Wednesday night.
While on the run from the FBI, KGB spies Philip, Elizabeth, and (their daughter) Paige Jennings stop at McDonald’s for dinner. They’re on their way to Russia to avoid arrest.
Their last stop, at America’s most iconic fast-food chain, represents the capitalist country Philip and Elizabeth lived in for decades. It’s the country Elizabeth hated, but Philip took a liking to over time.
During a conference call with creators and showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, the two described the exciting challenge of creating the look and feel of a McDonald’s in 1987. Fields joked that they could talk “a lot” about incorporating the fast-food chain into the series finale, and Weisberg said it wasn’t as simple as just shooting at a McDonald’s.
“That’s quite a story,” Weisberg said. “We loved that so much as Philip’s final goodbye to this greatest icon of American capitalism as he had become enamored with capitalism and America itself.”
Throughout the series, Philip is clearly more comfortable with American life, while his wife Elizabeth remains loyal to the Soviet Union, often disgusted by the America. But she gets more used to it as the series goes on and as she opens up to her husband’s optimism.
Weisberg said it was a “journey” to get McDonald’s in the scene, because they needed approvals from the corporation. “It’s not something McDonald’s had done a lot,” Weisberg said, “and fortunately, McDonald’s ended up being enthusiastic about it. And we had a really great experience with them. But it just took a lot of work to get to them.”
Once they got the approval, they had another obstacle: the series finale takes place in 1987, and that’s a tough period to find, since McDonald’s locations and signage have been updated many times over the years. It was incredibly important to McDonald’s and to Weisberg and Fields to get the location, the signage, and everything in the scene to be completely accurate to the period. Thankfully, the locations department found a spot that Weisberg describes as “literally a drop down from heaven,” although there was some “green screen magic” involved to make this particular location look like it was on the side of a road.
To make the interior and the signage of the period, McDonald’s tapped a librarian who kept record of all of the old McDonald’s signage. “We’re obsessed with that sort of period history,” Weisberg said. “It was amazing to have that resource. It came together.”