FX's The Americans, which returns at 10 p.m. Wednesday for a fourth season, is about many things: deception, divided loyalties, U.S.-Soviet relations in the 1980s, and the maybe slightly less volatile relations between married spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell).
But it's also about wigs.
"Wigs! Beards! Mustaches! Yes!" executive producer Joel Fields said when I raised the hairy issue of how the Jenningses disguise themselves.
Fields, who runs The Americans with creator Joe Weisberg, said he loves spotting a stranger on the set, "getting two paces past them and realizing, 'Wait a second . . . 'That's Matthew,' [or] 'That's Keri.' It's a blast."
For Fields, anyway.
"I think they love the wigs," he said.
Rhys, like Philip, doesn't tell his boss everything.
"I hate wearing wigs. They're desperately uncomfortable," the actor said a few days later.
"I don't know if you know this, but Keri and I often swap wigs. We do. They restyle them. Our hair department is amazing, what they do. However, if I'm wearing one of Keri's wigs, it's incredibly tight on my head."
Julianna Margulies chooses to skip the blowouts and wear a wig that's lighter in color and straighter than her own hair to play Alicia Florrick in CBS's The Good Wife (a wig, she told David Letterman last year, that cost $10,000).
Louie Anderson credits a handmade wig with helping him take "ownership" of the mother character on FX's Baskets.
And Viola Davis was mesmerizing last season in a scene in which her How to Get Away With Murder character, Annalise Keating, removed her wig, as though she were removing armor, in what many saw as an important television moment for black women, whose natural beauty is so often unacknowledged.
Still, Rhys, whose character had a memorable, if less culturally significant dewigging scene of his own, isn't alone in disliking wigs.
"It's a bit like wearing a vise for 17 hours" a day, said Gillian Anderson, who wore a wig to reprise the role of Dana Scully in Fox's six-episode revival of The X-Files. "You get used to it, but you start the first couple of weeks with headaches."
Sarah Paulson, who plays prosecutor Marcia Clark in FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, felt Anderson's pain, and Clark's.
The scrutiny Clark endured for her appearance before and during the trial was "horrifying," said Paulson, who wore four wigs while filming the 10-episode series, to reflect the changes Clark underwent.
"In the seventh episode [airing Tuesday], another hairdo comes. The straight hairdo, the final makeover. It's like the pasteurization of Marcia Clark," Paulson said.
And, yes, the wigs are "terrible," she said.
"Because, basically, you have all of your own hair wrapped up tight, and then they put a stocking over your head, sort of like a vise. And then they pin it, and they pin the wig to that. So it's very hot, you've got a bunch of pins in your head, and you're trying to, you know, embody another person. It's not easy."