Interview

From: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/11/2005
by: Patricia Sheridan

Best known for her role as Felicity Porter on The WB network’s “Felicity,” Golden Globe-winner Keri Russell took some time off to explore the other coast, settling in New York City to do films and plays and just play.

But Russell is back in the saddle with TNT’s mini-series “Into The West.” She plays Naomi Wheeler, who is abducted by Indians and assimilates, in Episode 2. (Episode 5, “Casualties of War,” airs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.) Russell recently acted in the off-Broadway play “Fat Pig” and is also in a soon-to-be-released German film, “Butterfly, A Grimm Love Story.”

You have such an angelic face. Will you ever be cast in an evil role?

I know what you mean. This winter I just did this new Neil LaBute play [“Fat Pig”] in New York, and I was pretty mean, which I know was very different for me. [Laughing.] But yes, it was really fun to be mean. Actually, the film I just finished in Germany was a very dark … kind of high-style film. My hair was dyed black, and I had all this punk-rock makeup on.

In reality, do we know how many women were abducted and adopted into Native American tribes?

I read a lot of narratives of women who had been captured, and it happened often enough. It wasn’t always a terrible experience. One of the stories I read was actually very cool. [It was] about a woman who ended up marrying a chief and having sons with him. His sons went on to be very famous Native American heroes. There were a few characters in reading these narratives. … It almost sounded like some of their stories were lifted for “Into the West.” I am only in Episode 2, but the story is very realistic and similar to what I have been reading.

What are your ambitions concerning big-screen roles versus television ?

It is more just about the story, I guess. In the last year I have had such a … broad spectrum of things: doing the play and doing a TV movie and the film in Germany. I wanted to do “The Upside of Anger” because of Joan Allen. The German film just sounded kind of cool and different for me. I always wanted to do a Western, so I did “Into The West.” You are drawn to different projects for different reasons, but yeah, I guess I am mostly looking at film.

After you were discovered, was the change in your social life a good thing?

You mean once I started working? Well, I think even more than being known, when you are doing an hour show, like when I was working on “Felicity,” especially when you are the lead. … it’s so time-consuming. An average day is 16 to 18 hours, five days a week. So you don’t have a social life. But it’s great because you have this group of people you are really intimate with, and you are making money, and you get to save money and all that.

Being recognizable was an obstacle as well. That’s why taking that year off and moving to New York saved me. In New York I was just that much more removed from this industry. None of my New York friends are in this industry. It makes me, you know, feel a little bit more normal and kind of connected to the world around me.

So did you date commoners?

[Laughing] I’m dating someone right now who’s not an actor — and I find his non-actorness very attractive!

Have you gone back to college?

I didn’t do it, but … when I took that year off, I was strongly considering it. … But, you know what? I didn’t end up working or going to college. I just took the whole year off to kind of be a kid.

Does the politics of the entertainment industry ever get to you?

When I’m living in it … [I] get wrapped up in it. In New York, none of it matters. I wear the same pair of jeans every single day and my same tennis shoes every single day. … In New York, with my girlfriends, the biggest thing is meeting to watch the end of “The Bachelor.” “I don’t care what you are doing — be there!” That’s like the highlight [laughing].