Playing Spygames

Rahul Khanna talks espionage, 80s seduction and American TV shows

Published: 02nd February 2015 06:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd February 2015 06:18 AM   |  A+A-


He hasn’t been on the big screen much this past year, but that is because Rahul Khanna has been busy netting roles in international shows. He’s already made an appearance in The Americans, a show about spies and homeland security, but this season (three), he reprises his role as Yousaf Rana, a suave, Oxford-educated, cricket-playing Pakistani intelligence officer whom the KGB covertly engineer to have promoted within the ISI to serve their own purposes. He lets us in on his experiences of being part of the ‘racy and sexy’ series, what pushed him to take the role, and the evolution of television.

Tell us a bit about the role

I play an ISI agent, during the Cold War, who is seen giving information to Washington a lot. So the KGB sets a honey trap (as they have been known to do) for my character Yousaf. Then they lure him away from spying for the CIA, get him an upgrade within the ISI and bring him over to their side, to spy from the Russian side. Plus, a shocking twist will leave Yousaf completely beholden to the KGB. Of course, they exploit him to the maximum.

Did you enjoy working in this format

This show, of 13 episodes, is like working on a feature film. The cameras and crew are all film standard now. It is mind boggling to see how many people work on the show and on set. It’s usually five-day shoots for 12 to 14 hours a day. But you literally just have to come in and do your stuff, because everything else is taken care of so meticulously. We really are in the Golden Age of television. And I must say that on our sets, it is the best catering I have had in my entire life.

What made you accept the role

Actually, I didn’t say ‘yes’ from the word go. It was not at all easy to accept because there was an explicit love-making scene in the script, that I wasn’t at all comfortable with, so I had to mull over it. Then the creators explained it to me, made every effort to help me feel comfortable and at ease, saying it would be tastefully done. So when I knew I wasn’t going to be doing anything dreadful, I resigned myself to it.

More about the actors on set

I am in complete awe of them.Matthew Rhys is just a phenomenal actor. He is so talented, it is extraordinary. Keri Russel is fantastic. She is lovely and so hardworking. And Noah (Emmerich), who plays Stan Beeman, an FBI counterintelligence agent, is simply sublime. His acting is exquisite. In fact, when I watch him, I have an acting crush on him.

What is most appealing for the audience?

For the audience and the actor, in fact, the most poignant part is that the show is created by someone who was an agent. Joe Weisberg is ex-CIA so he is privy to a lot of operational inside history. So the show is very real. Plus, it is full of spy gadgets, capers and espionage. It’s lovely. And who doesn’t love the fashion of the 80s.

Does your story arc close in the season or is it open to return?

I don’t actually know. They are still writing the end of this season, so really your guess is as good as mine.I am, of course, very happy to come back as many times as they are happy to have me.

Season three airs at 10 pm on Thursdays, on Star World Premiere. Season one airs weekdays at 10 pm, on FX


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