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Reel vs. Real

Reel vs Real with the CIA and FX's The Americans banner


Reel vs Real with the CIA and FX's "The Americans"

Merging the overt world of Hollywood with the covert mission of the CIA, the Agency's "Reel vs. Real" event seeks to demystify the CIA's mission by comparing what's seen on TV to what happens in reality. Former CIA officers join the acclaimed creator and actors from FX's "The Americans" on-stage at UCLA for a lively discussion about the facts vs. fiction of espionage, CIA tradecraft, and living under cover.

The event took place on May 30, 2018. To read a recap and to watch a video of the event in its entirety, go here.



Meet the Panelists

Joe Weisberg (Moderator)

Joe Weisberg worked at the CIA from 1990-1994 in the Soviet/East European Division, and the Near East Division’s Afghan Task Force. He also spent several months in the Agency’s Operations Center, where on his very first day, he accidentally answered his boss’ phone and found the Director on the other end. With everyone staring at him, he briefed the Director on an unfolding crisis in the Caucuses. Joe completed language training in Spanish, worked on a covert program in Latin America Division, and eventually left the Agency for personal reasons.

A decade later, he wrote a spy novel, “An Ordinary Spy.” He followed that with a TV pilot about a CIA Station in Bulgaria that started his career in Hollywood. His next major project, “The Americans,” is finishing its final season on FX.

* * * * *

Keri Russell

Keri Russell stars as Elizabeth Jennings in the critically acclaimed FX series, “The Americans,” which portrays the life of two Soviet KGB officers posing as a married American couple living in Washington, DC during the Cold War. For her performance, Russell received four Critics’ Choice Award nominations for “Best Actress in a Drama Series,” one Golden Globe nomination for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama,” and two Emmy nominations for “Lead Actress in a Drama Series.”

Russell’s film credits include “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Dark Skies,” “August Rush,” “The Girl in the Park,” “Mission Impossible III,” “The Upside of Anger,” “We Were Soldiers,” “Eight Days A Week,” “Extraordinary Measures,” and “Waitress” among many others.

Russell’s other television credits include “Malibu Shores,” “Running Wilde,” and “Felicity.”

* * * * *

Martha "Marti" Peterson 

Marti Peterson retired from the CIA in 2003 as a Senior Intelligence Officer after a 32 year career. She was deployed worldwide as an operations officer, serving her first overseas tour in Moscow. She was awarded the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s William J. Donnelly Award, and the George H. W. Bush Award in Counterterrorism.

Peterson married her college sweetheart, who took her to Laos in the early 1970s to participate in a secret CIA war. His death there at age 27 led her to the beginnings of her own CIA career.

Peterson was featured in the first episode of CNN’s series “DECLASSIFIED,” which brings to life the true stories of America’s covert operations told firsthand by the people involved.

Peterson is the author of “The Widow Spy,” which recounts the first seven years of her career with CIA. The book is being translated to Russian as well as produced in audio format.

* * * * *

Matthew Rhys

Matthew Rhys has earned rave reviews for his portrayal of Philip Jennings on the critically acclaimed FX drama series “The Americans,” on which he has also directed. Rhys has garnered nominations for a Golden Globe Award and two Primetime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.” This year he also received an Emmy Award nomination for "Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series” for his work on HBO’s “Girls.” 

Rhys starred for five seasons as Kevin Walker on the ABC's series “Brothers & Sisters.” He recently played Daniel Ellsberg in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” and John Lockwood in Warner Bros’ “Mowgli.  

Rhys can be seen in “Burnt,” and recently starred as the poet Dylan Thomas in John Maybury's film, “The Edge of Love.”

Rhys made his New York theater debut in the 2012 revival of “Look Back in Anger.”

* * * * *

Mark Kelton

Mark Kelton is the Director of MEK & Associates and is a retired senior CIA executive with 34 years of experience, including more than 16 years serving overseas. Kelton concluded his career as the Chief of CIA’s Counterintelligence Center. He was awarded the CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Director of National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the CIA Director’s Award, and the 2015 Presidential Rank Award among others.

Kelton is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University and at the Daniel Morgan Graduate School for National Security. He is a consultant to AppGuard and is on the advisory boards of ForcePoint and SHINE Systems. He is on the Insider Threat Subcommittee of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. He is a member of the board of the Spookstock Foundation, which benefits the CIA Memorial Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Mark is a regular contributor to The Cipher Brief.

* * * * *

Costa Ronin

Costa Ronin stars as Oleg Igorevich Burov on FX’s critically acclaimed drama series “The Americans.” Ronin grew up on the west coast of Russia where he landed his first role at the age of five. In 1996, he migrated to New Zealand, and then in 2001 to Australia.

Ronin appeared in “The Circuit,” “East-West 101,” and “False Witness aka The Diplomat” as well as “Red Dog.” Ronin appeared in “The Midnighters” in 2014 and stared on CBS’s show “Extant.” In the same year, he joined Marvel’s Cinematic Universe in “Agent Carter” as one of Marvel’s iconic characters, Anton Vanko. The following year he joined the DC Comic Universe.

Additional film credits include: “The Body Tree” and “Brighton Beach,” followed by stints on “Agent X,” “Scorpion,” and “The Strain.”


Sometimes the Truth is More Exciting Than Fiction:

Want to learn more Reel vs. Real? Many famous books and Hollywood films were inspired by real events in the world of espionage and intelligence. Below, you'll find a selection of stories and historical analyses depicting the true events that influenced many great works of fiction.

Take a Peek Behind the Iron Curtain

More Reel vs. Real: The True Stories Behind Famous Hollywood Films


Posted: May 29, 2018 02:58 PM
Last Updated: Jun 04, 2018 12:41 PM