Shining a spotlight on celebrities and athletes who love to travel. Created and developed by Stacy Steponate Greenberg.
Oscar Wilde famously said: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” If that is indeed true, perhaps the best example is the hit TV show The Americans. The FX series about two spies posing as American citizens has become wildly popular and is lauded for its authenticity, largely because its creator, executive producer and show runner all wrapped in one was once an agent for the CIA. Meet Joe Weisberg, the Yale graduate who shocked family and friends by joining the agency, then made the move to high school teacher, penned two well-received novels, and after all that managed to intrigue the minds in Hollywood with The Americans.
The Overhead Compartment had a stealth interview and can only now, after getting the approval from someone, but no one really knows who, met up with Joe Weisberg to learn about his secret life, travels and ….oh never mind, we can’t say anymore.
The Overhead Compartment with Joe Weisberg begins now….
OC: The Americans is a hit and season three ends with a big surprise leaving enticing questions. Fortunately those questions will get answered as you are headed into a 4th season. Where do the ideas for the show originate?
JW: My Co-Showrunnner, Joel, and I take a lot of walks where we think of ideas. We also have a fantastic staff of writers, and we spend a lot of time sitting around brainstorming in the writers room. The writers room is basically a rectangular room with a conference table, a bunch of white boards on the walls that we never use, and
a pitcher of water. All of us also regularly wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with ideas—that’s a big part of the job. And really everyone that works on the show comes to us with ideas.
OC: Why do you think Americans have such a fascination with espionage?
JW: I think everyone has things they keep to themselves, not necessarily huge secrets, but thoughts and feelings that are private. It makes it easy to relate to people who keep even bigger secrets, or people like Philip and Elizabeth whose entire lives are essentially secret. Also, espionage seems like fun, at least until you watch The Americans.
OC: It’s a well-known fact that you were in the CIA. How much do you pull from real life experiences for the show?
JW: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not allowed to answer that question. Nothing.
OC: What was the best thing about being in the CIA?
JW: I loved the people that I worked with. It was also interesting to see from the inside how this very secret organization actually worked. Almost everything was different from what I expected. In a way, it was a relief to discover that the things going on in secret were not as important as I thought they were.
OC: The worst?
JW: Having to lie all the time to everyone is not exactly a positive for your mental health.
OC: What was the most interesting city that working for the CIA ever took you?
JW: —- (This question went unanswered for security purposes)
OC: You’re quoted as saying the series is ultimately about marriage, is your writing influenced by your own personal stories?
JW: Are you crazy? Do you really think I’m going to answer this question?
OC: Much of your new show is filmed in Brooklyn, what is a restaurant no tourist ever goes to that you love in Brooklyn?
JW: I would go to Shelsky’s Of Brooklyn and get the El Vincente.
OC: You’re from Chicago and a Chicago sports fan. Is D Rose ever going to be healthy enough to build a title team around?
JW: Absolutely. He looked great in the playoffs, health-wise. How about that charge he took? He’s on his way.
OC: What do the bulls need to do to win a championship?
JW: Move to Europe? The NBA is tough these days.
OC: Some think this is finally the Cubs’ time. Do you?
JW: I used to live very close to Wrigley Field, I was a big Cubs fan. In fact, I used to skip school to go to Opening Day. But now, I’m bored by baseball. I didn’t know it was the Cubs’ time.
OC: Do the Bears need a new QB?
JW: I hate football.
OC: What are three things in Chicago every visitor must see or do?
JW:1) Wander around from neighborhood to neighborhood to neighborhood, that’s the best way to see the city.
2.) Bike the whole lakefront.
3.) Try deep dish and stuffed pizza, and then spend the rest of your life arguing about which is better.
OC: Where have you never been that you most want to, and why?
JW: I’d really like to go to India. I could come up with a lot of reasons, and make them sound very convincing, but really it’s because I like the food.
OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without
JW: A hat.
OC: ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser made a cameo in an episode. He has a reputation for being quirky. Any stories?
JW: Tony was fantastic! On set, some of the people on the crew knew that he was basically the most famous sportscaster in America and everybody else had no idea who he was. It was funny. He was extremely modest and everybody loved him.
OC: One secret about you no one knew until now, ____________________
JW: Since this is in large part about travel, I’ve been obsessed with luggage since I was a kid. I love luggage. I like compartments, the more the better. Different shapes, sizes. I enjoy a secret compartment. That’s probably why I joined the CIA.
Joe Weisberg, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!
Stacy Steponate Greenberg brings over 15 years of travel and marketing experience to Pursuitist. With her column, The Overhead Compartment, Stacy interviews celebrities and athletes bringing an insight into their lives and travel habits. Stacy spent 11 years at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in various capacities, serving stints as Director of Marketing for the St. Regis and Sheraton brands, and Senior Director for Starwood Residences. Prior to Starwood, Stacy worked as Manager of Marketing for Hyatt Hotels. A native of Chicago, Stacy resides New York City with her husband and two kids, who like to “rate” the various hotels on their travels with their mom. Reach Stacy via Twitter twitter.com/StacyGSG.