"I was brought in for the infamous 'chemistry read,'" he chortles, meant to see how he and Russell would mesh.
He was one of several prospects.
"In between them, I was pumping in the bathroom because I was nursing a new baby," Russell laughs. "And then I'd come out and test with the next stranger. We were reading the scene in the laundry room from the first episode, where Philip presents the idea of defection." (Philip tells Elizabeth: "We could get relocated, live the good life, and be happy.") "My character is outraged that he would even consider it.
"Basically, there's a slap in that scene," Russell adds. "But when the first guy came in, I didn't do it."
Then it was Rhys' turn. "The director said, 'Slap him.' So I went for it."
Rhys picks up the story: "Strange as it may sound, she slaps incredibly well. In the same place every time, and never near your eye. The swing of her arm was incredibly violent, but her wrist remained soft, so there wasn't much force behind it."
Clearly, he and Russell connected.
"And now it's become this ongoing joke," he says. "Keri will slap me — not hard — just before a take, just to see how I react. I feel like Inspector Clouseau and she's Cato. It's a surreal feeling to have the demure, angelic Keri Russell wallop you across the chops at any moment. But it's great!"
Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier