Inside Ausiello's Americans Makeover and Top-Secret Plan to Surprise Stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

Breaking Americans news: The role of Clark Herbert Westerfeld — one of Matthew Rhys’ many alias’ on FX’s acclaimed Cold War spy drama — has been hijacked by… me. For one night, anyway.

Let me back up for a second.

Back in early July, Amber Dowling — then-VP of the Television Critics Association — approached me about presenting one of the trophies at the annual TCA Awards. The category was Outstanding Achievement in Drama, the (then-top secret) recipient was The Americans, and my co-presenter would be writer-editor Hanh Nguyen. I accepted without hesitation. I love The Americans. My fondness for Keri Russell is well documented. And I recall the last time I took the stage at the TCA Awards — in 2005, when I presented Hugh Laurie with his second consecutive best actor trophy for House — being loads of fun.

RELATED TCA Awards 2015: Empire, Jon Hamm, Amy Schumer, Americans, Fosters and John Oliver Among Winners

I connected with Hanh over email, and she tossed out a crazy-fun idea: What if she came out wearing a wig — a wink to the many disguises worn on the show by Russell and Matthew Rhys? I countered that we take a “go big or go home” approach and actually disguise ourselves as two of Russell and Rhys’ signature Americans doppelgängers. She loved it, and within minutes I was pitching the idea to FX’s top PR guy John Solberg. If we were going to do this, we needed to do it right, and that included using actual Americans wardrobe and, if possible, professional stylists and makeup personnel. We also needed to keep a lid on this thing. No one could know, and that included Russell and Rhys (both of whom were scheduled to attend), the entire TCA membership (save for Dowling), and members of my own staff.

The element of surprise was critical. There could be no spoilers. (Irony alert!)

Miraculously, Solberg signed off on the whole thing. He even arranged to fly out the show’s beloved wig specialist, Peg Schierholz, to work alongside local stylist Erin Barrow and makeup guru Tracey Anderson in transforming Hanh and I into “Clark” and “Jennifer.” (Massive props to Solberg’s colleague, Americans publicist Lana Kim, for working out all the logistics.)

Now we just needed to pull this off.

Scroll through the gallery below for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my transformation from TV scoopster to Cold War spy, as well as a look at the big reveal and aftermath!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Nichole says:

    That looked like a real blast, loved the look Matthew was giving you in picture 22 lol!! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Nancy says:

    THAT was so awesome! :)

  3. MMD says:

    Love it, love it, love it. It looks like you all had a blast! What a fun way to give out an award.

  4. CourtTV says:

    Well done Ausiello and team! Looks like lots of fun.

  5. Cynthia says:

    I love everything about this! Any chance we’ll get a link to a video? :)

  6. Miranda says:

    I will love you two forever for pulling off this masterful plan. Well done! And congrats to The Americans and Keri and Matthew for continuing to be awesome.

  7. N says:

    You’re such a GREAT guy for doing this! Thanks for sharing it!

  8. arial2 says:

    So that’s what the white hair in Mo Ryan’s photo was all about! I was a little flummoxed by the change. Okay, never do that again; your dark hair is very nice. *Breathes sigh of relief*