Magazine article The New Yorker

Agent Emmerich

Magazine article The New Yorker

Agent Emmerich

Article excerpt

From the ramparts of Belvedere Castle, in Central Park, Noah Emmerich looked down on the Delacorte Theatre with a half smile. It was a spring day, and Emmerich, in jeans and an indigo T-shirt, was recalling another spring day at the Delacorte, thirty-one years ago. In 1982, Emmerich, who was then seventeen, had helped organize a student rally against nuclear weapons; some nine hundred people heard ruminative songs played by James Taylor and Richie Havens and ringing words from Bella Abzug.

Emmerich also spoke. "I remember worrying about my stutter, but I talked about our authentic fear of thermonuclear disaster," he said. "And we all sang a song I wrote: 'We are the future generations, we hold the future in our hand, please help us something something something, please help us make them understand' "--his lilting baritone broke off into laughter. "I really felt that we could run the world better than the grownups, who couldn't be trusted."

Emmerich planned to pursue constitutional law and dreamed of landing on the Supreme Court. His Dalton School classmate and fellow-organizer Abigail Pogrebin recalls, "Noah spoke Italian and knew about art--he was worldly before the rest of us. His energy was big, his voice was big, his humor was edgy--he was a leader."

His fears of mutually assured destruction, like those of his schoolmates, dissipated with the breakup of the U.S.S.R. But somehow, he said, "I ended up back in the early eighties again, dealing with the Soviet threat." Emmerich stars on "The Americans," the FX drama about Soviet spies living undercover in a Washington, D.C., suburb during the Reagan years of space-based lasers and lumpy sweaters. He plays Stan Beeman, a bighearted F.B.I. agent in counter-intelligence who, like everyone else on the show, begins to betray his beliefs in the name of upholding them.

Camouflaged by a three-day stubble, but unmistakably himself, the actor politely declined a Park employee's request to take his picture. He'd just finished shooting the show's first season (the finale airs this week), and said he was "a little on edge about being recognized in the real world as Stan, because Stan--from living in a dark reality where duplicity is the norm, mistrust is the currency, and murder is the standard--goes off the rails. …

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