The stars are aligning for Costa Ronin this year as he has joined one of the hottest shows on television: FX’s “The Americans”! Created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg and JUSTIFIED creator Graham Yost, “The Americans” follows two deep-cover KGB agents (Keri Russell & Matthew Rhys) posing as an American couple living in Washington, D.C. during the 1980's with their unsuspecting children. Ronin’s character, “Oleg Burov”, is the newest addition to season two, who comes in to stir up trouble as the young KGB officer with a talent for science and technology and privileged son of a Party member. We have seen so far how Oleg will jump on any opportunity to move himself up the KGB ladder making for what Ronin describes as a very dynamic and interesting person to play.
Born and raised on the west coast of Russia, Ronin brings a very diverse background to Hollywood! After studying international relations and political science in New Zealand, Ronin moved to Australia where he starred in the Australian Film Institute award winning TV series “The Circuit”.
In a new interview, the accomplished theater professional discusses his experience with this critically-acclaimed show, the “twists and turns” he says viewers can expect this season, how his diverse international background enhanced him as an actor and much more!
Being a new addition to “The Americans”, what was the experience like coming into the show in the beginning of season two?
Costa- Coming into the second season can be very tricky. Most of the characters and their worlds had been established. It was my job to make sure that Oleg came in as a fully developed person. It was challenging, but I found it to be very inspiring. There is also a certain sense of excitement to be the new addition to an already established show, because you don’t know what the crew and cast are going to be like… Luckily, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields put together such an amazing creative team that they made me feel like a part of the family from day one. It was an absolutely amazing and supportive environment.
What do you most enjoy about playing your character Oleg Burov on “The Americans”? What most drew you to him?
Costa- I loved that there was a lot more to him than meets the eye. It was a hidden characteristic, but I could see that quality in him - even in the audition pages. He is multi-layered and nothing is what it seems with him. He’s a thinker… he’s not the kind of guy who comes in with guns blazing. He will lead everyone to believe that he’s something he’s not in order to lay low, all while learning the strengths and weaknesses of everyone at the Rezidentura. He is a very skilled strategist, and those characteristics are such a gift for an actor.
Since you play a Science and Technology officer at the Russian Embassy, did you do any kind of special research to prepare for your role? How did you prep to get into the mindset of Oleg and the issues this show deals with?
Costa- I do a lot of character building work in advance, so that when I’m in a scene, I can just surrender myself and channel the character’s energy. Every move he makes, every thought, every idiosyncrasy is motivated by my character’s thoughts, not mine.
It’s a very organic process. You have to tap into your character’s energy and let your heart sync up with his. As far as research, the researchers and the writers of the show are so good that I had all of the information that I needed. The show’s creator, Joe Weisberg is a former CIA officer, so if there is anyone who has knowledge on what was going on back in those days, it’s him. I completely trusted the creative team, but as an actor I still had to research as much as I could to familiarize myself with the events and effects that these issues had on the society and on those involved.
What is a storyline you have had with Oleg that has been the most satisfying and fulfilling for you as an actor?
Costa- Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have put together such a terrific team of writers that every scene is a powerful moment and an integral part of the show. Every time I step foot on set I feel grateful to walk in the shoes of such a dynamic character. This show is all about exploring the masks that we wear as human beings, the ways that we as people manipulate each other by telling lies and tapping in to each others psyche. I have always been fascinated with that, especially through Oleg’s interaction with Nina when we learn more about him as a human being. We learn about his plans, his desires, and his fears. The moments when Oleg lets down his mask to reveal his human side were very fulfilling for me to play as an actor. Also, the scene with Arkady when we finally share a drink was quite beautiful. It opens a new chapter in their relationship and shows a vulnerable side of Oleg.
What can viewers expect in the finale? Sneak peek? What kind of trouble is Oleg going to be possibly stirring up?
Costa- Well, there are a few more twists and turns left before the season is through, but I don’t want to reveal any of that just yet. It’s not because of what I can or cannot say, I just wouldn’t want to rob the audience of their experience. Throughout the season you connect with the story, the world and the characters. I would like the audience to be able to live through these experiences with the characters.
You studied International Relations, that’s a very far fetch from performing, how did you make the transition into acting after that? What originally sparked your interest in acting?
Costa- Acting was something that always interested me and International Relations is not too far-fetched from performing actually. The psychological games of the highest caliber with an incredibly small margin for error were what interested me most. Great stakes create great drama so in that way, the transition just made sense. But I have always loved acting since I was a child. I started playing with different characters when I was 5. I even played a grandmother in a play at summer camp, and ever since then, the storytelling bug never left me. After school I would attend drama clubs around town, which then lead to a job at a radio station, and then to my first film and the rest is history!
I would also say that storytelling in general, not just acting, is something that has always interested me. Reading Shakespeare and Jules Verne at a young age definitely contributed to the passion. There are a lot of stories around the world that are passed on from generation to generation and it’s our duty as artists to tell these stories before they are lost.
I read that you were born in Russia (and spent part of your childhood there), studied in New Zealand and then lived and worked as an actor in Australia for some time. How do you think having such a diverse background and such diverse life experiences has impacted you as an actor?
Costa- I guess all of those life experiences contributed to the kind of person I am right now. For a storyteller, it’s invaluable to have those experiences and to be able to draw from them. Consciously or sub-consciously, I learn from every person who I come into contact with. Every new person and every new experience deepens me as an artist as well as a human being.
I like to ask this question to everyone I interview: If you could travel back in time and spend a day in the life of anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Costa- Like Oleg, I have always been fascinated by the sense of adventure. It would be quite remarkable to experience what Christopher Columbus felt after all those years of perseverance when his watchman shouted, ‘Land!’
Where can viewers keep up with you on Social Media?
Costa- www.costaronin.com Twitter: @CostaRonin Instagram: CostaRonin
"The Americans" airs on FX on Wednesday's at 10pm est.