Jane Magazine 10/99 (interview)

From: Jane Magazine, October, 1999
By: Geri Richter Campbell

If you’ve ever wondered how to win over the “been there done that” crowd at a magazine photo shoot, just ask Keri Russell. She not only shows up on time but she arrives bearing assorted brews for the crew. You must understand, this never happens. I feel like we must be really special. A few weeks later, I find out we’re not the first to get the royal Russell treatment. But we at Jane never look a gift horse in the mouth-especially one carrying a couple six packs.

jane_01If you’re not sure who Keri Russell is by now, you’ve either been hanging out at your Swiss villa for a while or you don’t own a TV. The media blitz for the WB show, Felicity, was rivaled only by the Star Wars campaign. (Okay, maybe it was more along the lines of the new crispy M&Ms.) Yet Felicity didn’t immediately live up to all the hype. A show about an intense college girl with some burgeoning stalker tendencies just wasn’t catching on. But with some more humor and a new boyfriend added during the first season, Felicity has won Keri a decent-sized audience, A Golden Globe award for Best Actress and praise such as, “She’s this year’s Calista Flockhart,” whatever that means.

She had already been on (and off) TV for nine years by the time she snagged Felicity. When she was 15, there was the mega-breakout role of Mouseketeer on the All New Mickey Mouse Club, followed by shows like Daddy’s Girls and Malibu Shores. Then there were the feature films Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Dead Man’s Curve (I think I missed that one). Keri relocated often as a kid. Her automotive-executive dad got transferred a lot, so she grew up in Arizona, Colorado and California. She’s the middle of three children and the only one in “the business.” Her bohemian tendencies come from her mom, who Keri says “is slightly hippie-dippie. I get messages like, ‘Keri, there’s a full moon out. I just thought it was really pretty. Okay, I love you.'”

Chowing Down, the ultimate bond

Keri and I decide to spend the afternoon in New York City’s East Village. First we met at Kiev, a Ukrainian greasy spoon that I live for. While waiting for our order, I try to pry some future Felicity plot lines from her. “It’s a little surprising,” she begins. “Oh-here comes our food!” Nice dodge. Keri’s French toast is adorned with beautiful fruit slices because the cook is a huge fan. I’ve never even gotten canned fruit at Kiev.At this moment, the theme from Titanic comes on, and Keri says, “Oh, what a great song-no, wait, it’s Celine Dion! Oy, I thought it was some cool Irish song. But I actually buy into all this cheese. If my boyfriend ever heard me listening to this song he would probably strangle me.”

Love in the Magic Kingdom

Okay, now that she’s mentioned it, we can go to the next topic: the man. Keri lives with her 23-year-old boyfriend, Tony Lucca, who she describes as “hot and cute, and an amazing singer and musician.” They’ve known each other since they were 15, when they were both Mouseketeers. “How cheesy is that?” she says. “We met at Disney World! I first kissed him when we were 15 years old. We were boyfriend-and-girlfriend for a few years, then we were apart for two years and it was great, I mean, it was horrible for me, originally. I was just like, ‘He’s a loser, and I’m not going to talk to him again.’ That’s when he came back around.” Sound familiar, ladies?

The road back to Tony was filled with drugs, pain and rock ‘n’ roll-kind of like a modern-day Sense and Sensibility: “I had to get my wisdom teeth taken out, and I wanted to be put under, so I had to have someone pick me up,” Keri remembers. “The dentist was near Tony’s house, so I was like, “I’ll give him a call. I don’t care if he sees me drooling afterward.’ He picked me up, and it turns out that I had dry sockets [an excruciating post-tooth-yanking infection], and I was in bed for a week. It was horrible, but he took care of me. He would bring me medicine everyday and wait till I was asleep, and then leave. One day, he was walking away from my house, and he turned around and said, ‘Do you want to go on a date sometime?’ And I just laughed” It helped matters that Tony dropped off a homemade cassette with a song written just for Keri, which she paraphrases as, “Blah, blah, blah, I think you’re so great, I want you back.” Not exactly Barry White, but it did the trick.

I felt pretty honored that Keri has confided the Tony Saga details to me. Later, I find out that she’d already told the story to David Letterman. What she didn’t tell Dave was that she took a couple of nips to get over the pre-show jitters. “I know” she sighs, “a couple beers before every shoot, the shot of Jägermeister before Letterman, the bottle of wine at home every night,” she chuckles wickedly. Well, we finally got the scoop: Keri Russell’s drinking problem, a Jane magazine exclusive. “Exactly,” Keri laughs, “and tonight’s Hard Copy.” Note to the humorless: That last part was a joke.)

Actors are scary people who need love, too

When I ask Keri if she has any friends in the business, she ponders the question for a few minutes. “You mean, like, other actresses? I don’t have a ton. My girlfriend Eileen is a writer, or trying to be a writer. Another friend Elana, is at N.Y.U. The coolest person I have met in L.A. was k.d. lang, but she’s not an actress.” When I ask if there are any actors she’s dying to meet, or at least have a torrid love scene with, she names one of our favorite people: “Viggo Mortenson. He’s a real hottie and he seems like such an amazing person, I’m all over Viggo.”

But the real reason Keri doesn’t hang out with a posse of actors is the idea freaks her out. “I think what scares me so much is that most actors are just so sad. If you think, you know, winning some award or being on these talk shows is going to make you feel good, it’s not. This business is crawling with people who use it to define their self-worth. That’s why so many actors are alcoholics. They have no life outside of this. It’s like, ‘Get a hug’ literally!”

Shopping and sharing

After lunch, we head to Kmart to buy a new T-shirt for Keri’s costar Scott Speedman, who plays Ben, the former object of Felicity’s obsession (and possibly Gwyneth Paltrow’s-but I digress). “He’s a total hottie,” Keri says of Scott. “Everyone loves him. Everyone who meets him wants to be his mom.”

That’s not exactly what I was thinking-although when I interviewed Scott, I learned that he owns only two T-shirts, both of them black, so I can understand it. Keri confirms that this is indeed true, but after weeding through some merchandise, including some loud Hawaiian shirts, Keri decides nothing is quite right. Before heading down the escalator, she is spotted by a hyperventilating fan who desperately tries to find something Keri can autograph, and ends up with her unpaid phone bill. “Ninety-five percent of the time, people are so kind and polite to me,” Keri says, as she scribbles over the OVERDUE notice. “The other 5 percent are . . . well, we were at a De la Guarda, the aerial performance piece, and people were asking for my autograph. I’m like, ‘Come on, we’re at a show! Don’t look at me, look at them.’ I just don’t like it when I’m a distraction to what’s going on.”

Other than that, Keri doesn’t bitch much about her life. Well, there’s one more complaint. “The other day some photographers booed me,” she says “I had just done Letterman, and I was so nervous once it was over, I was exhausted. Then I had to go to a big WB party. So I get out of the car, and these photographers are outside, and I guess I didn’t stay out there long enough, because they started booing. It was horrendous! I almost cried.” Hey buck up already! I’d endure occasional rude gestures from disgruntled paparazzi if it meant a limo and free designer clothes. She seems much more at home in today’s uniform-a worn-in brown corduroy Levi’s jacket over a liberty-print camisole, sans bra, old form-fitting jeans and bronze wedged flip-flops. You can see right away why she refuses to be on any magazine covers (she won’t say which ones, but you know who you are) wearing a push up bra or micromini. Keri also has on a silver toe ring and a silver commitment ring from Tony (that one she wears on her wedding finger-it says, in French, “Neither you without me, neither me without you”).

Now that we’d shared lunch, shopping and seemingly endless girl talk, I thought it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Did Keri wait until college to lose her virginity, like Felicity did? “Uh, no. I was 15. This isn’t going to sound very good, but I think it was in a friend’s apartment, in a bathroom suite with a closet, on the floor.” And – shocker of all shockers- it wasn’t even with Tony! “But Tony was the first time sex like ‘Right on, we need to do this more often, yeah!'” Speaking of which, at 23, Keri seriously thinks about giving it all up and having babies. “If I wasn’t in this particular series and if my boyfriend was more at a stopping place, I would for sure do it. I think there’s a turn back to monogamy and old family values, which is good.”

After a brief stop at a coffee bar, I walk Keri back to her limo and wave goodbye. I’m not only sad to see my new best girlfriend leave but despondent over the fact that she didn’t spill the beans on last season’s cliffhanger-does she go with Ben or Noel? Before she left, I asked Keri which boy she would pick in real life. “I don’t know; I’ve never dated. I’ve always been really good friends with somebody, and then . . . a best friend works much better than a lover-for-a-night. I would probably lean toward Noel, but he and Felicity get a little too whiny for my taste. I think they’re working on that this season.” Was that a hint she’ll choose Noel on the show? Say it isn’t so.She told only me. And Dave. And a million other people.

A few weeks later, I picked up a brand-new issue of InStyle magazine, with an article on my dear friend Keri. I read it while taking a bath and am shocked to find that she has shared with them virtually the same intimate stories about her wisdom teeth, Tony and their commitment rings. Talk about bursting my bubble bath. At least she didn’t tell anyone else about losing her virginity on the bathroom floor, her passion for Jamaica Red beer or the Mary Poppins bicycle Tony bought her for her birthday. Not yet, anyway.

 

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