NBC’s upcoming drama “Allegiance” — which premieres Feb. 5 — centers around a seemingly normal American family whose parents are secretly Russian spies. If that sounds a lot like FX’s “The Americans” to you, you’re not alone. But the cast of the show and executive producer George Nolfi did their best to distance their show from the FX offering during the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena on Friday.
“Watch one or two episodes, and I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going in a very different direction,” Nolfi offered. “This is fundamentally a family drama about people who do not want to be spies, and they’re forced into this situation … that’s just an extremely different setup.”
“Actually, a lot of shows have superficial similarities,” added series star Gavin Stenhouse, citing shows such as “True Detective,” “The Missing” and “The Killing.” “They’re based on similar things, but they’re completely different emotional journeys … I really feel like once you’ve seen an episode or two, that’s where the comparisons end.”
“Allegiance” stars Stenhouse as CIA analyst Alex O’Connor, whose parents (played by Hope Davis and Scott Cohen) are long-deactivated Russian spies who are called into service to turn Alex into a spy, forcing them to either betray their country or risk their family.
While Nolfi would probably say that that “The Americans” isn’t an influence on his show, during the TCA panel the executive producer did say that the character of Alex, who has a freakish knack for detail that’s generally beyond his colleagues, was partially influenced by his own childhood. The producer, who said that he had a “pretty severe” learning disability as a child, noted, “Knowing that you have something to contribute, but not being able to contribute it puts you in a very specific mindset. You go through the stages of growth in kind of a different way, your relationship with your parents is different, and it comes out in a lot of ways.”
However, Nolfi added, “The Gavin character is definitely not me, it’s just an inspiration for it, a way to get inside him.”
During the panel, Davis also reflected on the recently wrapped HBO series “The Newsroom,” on which she played Nina Howard.
“It’s over, it’s off the air,” Davis said of the series, which aired its finale in December. “It was a strange show to work on. I’m a fan of Jeff’s [Daniels, series star] and of [series creator] Aaron Sorkin‘s. I’m not sure exactly why they pulled the plug; it was kind of mysterious.”