Pasadena, Calif. — To some, new NBC spy drama Allegiance might seem like a network version of FX’s The Americans.
The Americans, which returns for its third season Jan. 28, is centered around two KGB agents posing as a married couple in 1980s Washington, D.C. Allegiance, set to premiere Feb. 5, stars Gavin Stenhouse as a rookie CIA analyst whose parents Katya and Mark, played by Hope Davis and Scott Cohen, are deactivated Russian spies.
“Watch one or two episodes and it’s pretty clear we’re going in a very different direction,” said showrunner George Nolfi during a panel for the show at the TCA winter press tour Friday. “It’s fundamentally a family drama about people who do not want to be spies.”
Unlike The Americans, Allegiance is set in modern times. Cohen noted the focus on the post 9/11 generation. “We’re dealing with an imminent danger,” he said.
Stenhouse said there are a lot of shows on TV that are similar to each other, mentioning murder-mysteries True Detective and Broadchurch as just a few. “(They are) based on similar things but have completely different emotional journeys,” he said.
In Allegiance, Katya and Mark, who have not heard from Russia in years, are asked to turn their son into a spy. The decision, Nolfi said, has them facing the possibility of death at the hands of Russia or life in prison in the U.S.
Of all the spy writing Nolfi has done, which includes The Bourne Ultimatum, “This is probably the most realistic, authentic depiction of the way the intelligence community actually operates,” he said.