Saunders: Russell renews her TV ties

From: The Rocky Mountain News, January 24, 2005
by: Dusty Saunders

HOLLYWOOD – For many viewers, Keri Russell has fallen into the “whatever-happened-to?” category.

After a steady, rising career that began in 1991 on The Mickey Mouse Club, the former Denver-area resident (Highlands Ranch High School) burst to national stardom in 1998 on WB’s Felicity, winning a Golden Globe award. (Anyone recall the silly controversy when she cut her hair?)

The series, chronicling the angst of a young woman attending college in New York, was canceled after three seasons, and Russell gradually faded from the limelight.

Now she’s back, in a major way, as the star of The Magic of Ordinary Days, a CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame production airing Sunday (8 p.m. CBS 4).

And the film even has a Colorado angle.

Based on the book by Ann Howard Creel, the World War II drama centers on a young unmarried woman, Livy Dunne, who becomes pregnant by a dashing G.I.

Her father, a stern minister, banishes his daughter from the family and arranges a marriage of convenience with a lonely young farmer (Skeet Ulrich) in the eastern Colorado town of Wilson (think La Junta).

While agreeing to raise Livy’s child as his own, the farmer has little in common with his wife.

The couple comes together, their story aided by Livy’s growing friendship with a Japanese family that has been forced to live in a nearby internment camp.

Historically, this is Lamar.

The movie, however, was filmed in Calgary. Regarding her Greta Garbo imitation, Russell said she took an entire year off after Felicity.

“I was just burnt out so I picked up and moved to New York City,” Russell says.

“I have a few really good girlfriends there who I’ve known since I was 15. So I took a few boxes of books and my cats, and I lived there with two mattresses on the floor.

“I read books and acted like a kid.”

Reports circulated that Russell was having serious doubts about resuming an acting career.

“I think I was just tired – really tired,” she says. “On that show (Felicity) – being the lead character was just all-consuming. I didn’t have any time for outside life at all. And I missed that.

“I needed to gain some of my life back.”

Russell was intrigued by the Livy character and wanted to work with co-star Ulrich, who, like Russell, had taken some time off from acting.

“We connected because we were both on the same level of leaving the business for a while.”

Russell, indicating she’s back in the “acting business,” will be seen next as part of an ensemble cast in TNT’s Into the West, a 12-hour summer series dramatizing the lives of two multigenerational pioneer families.

Russell visits Denver regularly since she has many close friends in the area.

Regarding the harrowing hair harangue with Felicity producers, Russell said, “I still don’t get it.”

During the second season of Felicity, Russell chopped off her much-publicized curly locks.

The series’ ratings dropped.

A haunting question emerged. Was Russell a modern, female version of Samson?

“It fascinates me that anyone cared. It must have been a slow year.”

For the record, Russell’s hair is now stylishly long, hanging near her shoulders.