From downtime to ‘Upside’: Keri Russell rejoins the Hollywood circuit after much-needed time off

From: The Athens Banner-Herald March 16, 2005
by: Annabelle Robertson

When it comes to hair, she’s the female equivalent of Samson. As soon as Keri Russell, the star of the WB television drama, “Felicity,” snapped off her curly locks in August of 1999, she lost her strength. Ratings for the popular show plummeted and finally, after four seasons, “Felicity” was canceled.

“It’s fascinating,” Russell said, laughing and running a hand through her famous hair. “People really cared about it. It must have been a slow year – what can I say?”

The actress didn’t let the fiasco faze her, however. In 2002, she starred opposite Mel Gibson in “We Were Soldiers” then took a role Off Broadway in the Neil LaBute play, “Fat Pig,” alongside Andrew McCarthy and Jeremy Piven. She played the catty friend of a man who dates an overweight woman.

Now Russell, who will turn 29 this month, has a starring role in “Upside of Anger” alongside Joan Allen and Kevin Costner. The film deals with adultery, anger and alcoholism and explores the various ways we respond to parental rejection.

Russell plays Emily Wolfmeyer, the second of four daughters struggling to accept her father’s abandonment. Terry (Allen), the girls’ mother, has trouble expressing love and has turned to the bottle for comfort. She discovers a drinking partner in her neighbor, Denny (Costner), an ex-pro baseball player who isn’t the brightest light on the planet, but who is kind to the girls. When Terry and Denny’s relationship turns romantic, it creates just one more thing for the girls to cope with.

“All the daughters have their own version of anger towards their mom, but I feel like my character has the most confrontational scenes with her,” Russell said. “I’m the one who is always pushing her and is really outwardly vocal about her drinking and other issues.”

Prior to filming “Upside of Anger,” the actress enjoyed a well-needed sabbatical for a year.

“I didn’t read movies, I didn’t audition, I didn’t do anything. And I moved to New York and just hung out with my friends and read books,” she said, adding she felt incredibly tired and simply needed to be in a place where show business was not the order of the day. In other words, someplace other than L.A.

“I just really wanted to hear my girlfriends’ stories about the guy who was a real jerk or finish whatever I was reading, some Salinger book. In New York, it’s very easy to be social, and I have really, really good girlfriends there, so it kind of saved me.”

A self-professed loner who enjoys downtime with her two cats, Russell confessed dating can be very challenging for her.

“You’re in this very controlled environment where you’re very protected from the outside world. If you’re not dating your co-star or the sound guy, you’re not dating anyone because you’re not meeting anyone. Unless the Starbucks guy is incredibly attractive – which he might be!” she said, laughing yet again. “But I felt trapped, and that year off broke that cycle for me. The people I’ve dated have nothing to do with the business.”

She’s still tiny, with long, flowing locks. But she’s also six years older.

Is she still recognized as Felicity?

“It’s not like I meet guys and they go, ‘Hey, you’re the girl on that show!'” she said slowly. “Unless they’re drunk. Then they do!”

Russell’s next project is a television series called “Into the West,” which boasts such notables as Sean Astin, Tom Beringer, Beau Bridges and Josh Brolin. The filming was particularly enjoyable, said the Colorado- and Arizona-raised actress.

“Riding horses was amazing,” she said, throwing back her head. “Really riding fast and learning to swing and mount bareback, where you grab the mane and swing on and ride off. I didn’t want to leave. I loved it. And hanging out with cowboys all day! Yes, please!”