Philip Jennings (The Americans)

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Philip Jennings
The Americans character
Matthew Rhys Americans.jpg
First appearance"Pilot"
Last appearance"START"
Created byJoe Weisberg
Portrayed byMatthew Rhys
In-universe information
OccupationKGB agent
SpouseElizabeth Jennings
Martha Hanson (not legally married)
ChildrenPaige Jennings, Henry Jennings, Mischa Semenov

Philip Jennings (real name Mikhail (called Mischa); Russian: Михаил/Миша) is a fictional character in the American television drama series The Americans on FX, and the male lead. He was created by series creator Joe Weisberg and is portrayed by Welsh actor Matthew Rhys. Philip is a KGB agent and, along with Elizabeth (Keri Russell), poses as a travel agent in Washington D.C.

Character history[edit]

Early history[edit]

Philip was born as Mikhail in Tobolsk. His father died when he was six years old; his mother's history is unknown. Philip describes being attacked by gangs at a young age while collecting milk across the city. One day he fought back, and beat one of the bullies to death. As a teenager, Philip dated a young Russian woman named Irina, who shared his dream of joining the KGB. When Philip is accepted into the Illegals Program, Irina breaks up with him and tells him that she's met someone else. Later, Irina also joins the KGB as an undercover agent in Europe. Philip trains for several years before meeting "Elizabeth Jennings," another member of the Illegals Program, who is assigned to be his wife in America. They move to Virginia in 1965 and have their first child, Paige, in 1967.

Season one[edit]

In 1981, Philip Jennings lives with his (pretend) wife Elizabeth outside of Washington D.C. They are revealed to be a pair of sleeper agents working for the KGB. They have two children, Paige and Henry. After a failed deportation, Philip and Elizabeth kidnap Nikolai Timoshev, a defected KGB agent, who raped Elizabeth when she was in training. At the time of Timochev's kidnapping, counter-intelligence FBI agent Stan Beeman moves next door, causing Philip to suggest defecting themselves. Elizabeth declines and Philip murders Timoshev when he finds out he raped her. Elizabeth and Philip try to become a real married couple, but after finding out Elizabeth had an ongoing affair with Gregory Thomas (Derek Luke), a Black activist, he is hurt. She tells Philip that she is beginning to feel love for him for the first time in their 16-year relationship.

Philip has become genuine friends with Stan, who he initially befriended because he was a counter-intelligence agent. He begins a relationship with Martha Hanson, an FBI secretary, who knows him under the name Clark. He uses his relationship with her to keep tabs on what the FBI are working on. Philip and Elizabeth plant a bug in Caspar Weinberger's office, and begin listening for vital intelligence. After a mole in the KGB is realized, Elizabeth and Philip are kidnapped and tortured by KGB operatives posing as FBI agents. Philip believes that because Elizabeth's torturing stops, it was she who told the KGB that he considered defecting. Philip is upset that Elizabeth trusts the KGB more than she trusts him.

Philip goes to New York where he rekindles a romance with Irina. She tells him that they had a son together shortly after he joined the Illegals Program, and that she hid this from him so that he would follow his dream. She suggests they leave the KGB and run away together. Philip declines, not believing he fathered a child with her. He returns to Elizabeth, who tells him she'd like them to work on their relationship, to which Philip agrees, but neglects to tell Elizabeth about Irina. She soon finds out, however, and she and Philip separate, with Philip moving into a motel.

After leaving Martha's apartment one morning, Chris Amador, Stan's partner and Martha's ex-boyfriend, attacks Philip and is himself stabbed in the process. Despite Philip and Elizabeth's best attempts to keep him alive, he dies in his sleep. Gregory, who scrapped the car Philip used to transport Amador in, is soon fingered to the FBI. He commits suicide by cop. Later, General Zhukov is murdered under orders from a CIA officer, and Philip helps Elizabeth kidnap him, but after she doesn't go through with killing him, they let him go, but the CIA officer is able to identify them as a white couple.

Philip quickly marries Martha in an attempt to get her to bug her boss's office after Elizabeth finds out that a United States Air Force colonel has information on the SDI project. Despite not hearing anything about a setup with the bug, Philip doesn't believe its authenticity and takes the meeting with the Colonel, where he tells Philip the schematics are 50 years away from being possible. Elizabeth goes to collect the Weinberger tape, with the FBI ready to arrest whoever shows up for it. Philip realizes this and collects Elizabeth in time, but she is shot when the FBI open fire on them. After Elizabeth's surgery, she tells Philip in Russian to "come home".

Season two[edit]

Elizabeth recovers at a remote safe-house and returns to the Jennings house in time for Henry's 11th birthday. However, the celebration is cut short, as she and Philip must go meet the Connors, another spy couple, but promise a "birthday weekend" at an amusement park. There, Philip is surreptitiously infiltrated in a mission by the Connors, who give him a key to their hotel room for a drop after. When Elizabeth and Philip find the Connors family shot to death in their room, they become paranoid. She locks down the house and suggests he tries to glean information from Martha, his FBI informant. Philip goes to kidnap a Refusnik scientist living in the Washington area and the Israelis save the scientist only to have the Mossad protect him. However he and Elizabeth kidnap the Mossad agent and trade him for the Scientist as well as the Soviet Union letting 1500 Jews go to Israel.


Philip has expressed doubts about "the cause" throughout the series. Nevertheless, he remains committed to it and is one of the KGB's most reliable field agents.

While Philip grew up in poverty like his wife, his childhood was different. Philip fell in love with Irina as a young man, and that helped him develop a soft side that Elizabeth detests in the events preceding the show. Philip is a very attentive father, and it means a lot to him to make sure his children are happy and taken care of.

Philip becomes very angry with Paige when she becomes very religious, partly due to the fact that he is jealous of her palpable belief in something, and that she becomes disrespectful when her parents don't approve. He is shown to be very rational and level-headed, but is prone to infrequent emotional outbursts.

Philip loves playing hockey with Henry, and playing racquetball with his friend Stan Beeman. Even though Stan has played racquetball much longer than Philip, Philip picks up on the game quickly and starts beating Stan with ease. Despite these character traits, which suggest he is "softer" than Elizabeth, Philip is every bit the ruthless killer that his wife is.

In season 3, he starts attending EST meetings for reasons initially unknown to him, but later feels more in touch with his emotions. However, when season 3 comes to a close, Philip realizes the negativity of his emotions and thoughts, and feels he can't work for the KGB anymore when he is forced to kill a man to save Martha's skin. He is interrupted when Elizabeth focuses on Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech instead of him.

In season 4, Philip suffers from depression. He realizes he isn't as important as he thought he was in the KGB, and he struggles with Paige when she becomes aware of their activities. He disapproves of her relationship with Matthew Beeman.


Rhys spoke about what attracted him to the role of Philip: "He's a sort of gift of a part in that he's very sort of layered and multi-faceted. And when you meet him, he's at this great turning point in his life where everything's changing for him. You just get to do everything. You get to do the kung fu, and you get to do the emotional scenes, you get to do the disguises. It's the full package for an actor. It's a dream."[1]


For his portrayal, Rhys has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, winning once, and for three Critics' Choice Television Awards for Best Actor in a Drama Series and three TCA Awards for Individual Achievement in Drama. He is referenced in season 4 episode 16 of Supergirl


  1. ^ Prudom, Laura (January 30, 2013). "'The Americans' Premiere: Keri Russell And Matthew Rhys Talk Sex, Spy Games And America Vs. Russia". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 2, 2013.