Just look at the results. Less than five months after giving birth, Keri Russell is back with a postbaby figure (and a typically sensible frame of mind). April Long meets a no-fuss New York mommy
From: Page Six Magazine November 11, 2007
by: April Long
“Hi!” she says, breathlessly, flashing a row of perfect teeth. “I am so ready for some caffeine!”
She brought a friend (“I hope you don’t mind!”) to take River for a walk during the interview, so there’s a flurry of tying and untying, zipping and unzipping (and a furtive diaper check), as they transfer him from one body to the other-a process he tolerates with fuss-loving placidity. Keri tugs at the sling to make sure he’s comfortable, saying, “I love these things! I just don’t understand how people can manage strollers with all the stairs in this city.” She kisses his forehead and sends them on their way with a wave, then flops down into a chair. “Oh-kay! Now I can be normal.”
Keri is perhaps best remembered for Felicity, the TV show on which she starred from 1998 to 2002 as the wide- eyed college student navigating the trials and tribulations of life and love in Manhattan. Although the signature mane of long, curly ringlets-which she famously chopped off in the show’s second season-is long gone (“I’m addicted to straightening my hair,” she confesses. “I could have benefited from some hair-dryer action back in the day, to be honest”), she doesn’t look a day older now, at 31, than she did then. And she certainly doesn’t look like someone who has just had a baby. “Breastfeeding! It’s miraculous!” she says byway of explaining her slender frame. “I mean, within two weeks, you’re like, ‘Whoa, where is everything?'” Her doll-like face is dominated by big, expressive green eyes, which she now fixes on our inattentive waiter until he recognizes her caffeine deprivation. She orders a cappuccino, thanking him effusively and calling after him when he begins to walk away, “Oh! And…sorry! Could you also bring us a basket of bread?”
This year has certainly proved to be Keri’s most eventful since Felicity ended. On Valentine’s Day she married contractor Shane Deary at the Harrison restaurant in Tribeca (the two met through mutual friends), and on June 9 she gave birth to River. In January she appeared at the Sundance film festival for the premiere of Waitress-the endearing final film of writer-director Adrienne Shelly, who had been murdered two months earlier (see “Honoring Adrienne Shelly,” on page 22). This month Keri appears with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Freddie Highmore in August Rush-which is sort of like Oliver Twist vrith a musical prodigy twist. Freddie, now 15, plays an orphan who runs away to New York from his foster home to look for his biological parents-Keri, a concert cellist, and Jonathan, the front man of a rock band-after he, rather mystically, hears their music calling out to him. The film is a valentine both to the power of music and the majesty of Manhattan; it captures the thrilling, often terrifying hum of the streets. “It’s a beautiful, sweet fairytale, basically,” Keri explains. “You kind of have to know that going in, otherwise you’d be like “That could never happen!'”
In order to prepare for the role, Keri underwent intense training on the cello-an experience she still seems to be reeling from. “Oh, for the love of God!” she exclaims, laughing, “I had to play four hours every day. And of course, there’s never a movie about a kind of good cellist, they’re always the most amazing cellist in the universe! Doing solos in front of the real New York Philharmonic? Not enjoyable. I was like ‘Is this some kind of cruel torture?’ Freddie, who had to learn this specific form of guitar playing, would say, ‘Oh my God, this is so hard,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no. That’s not hard. Cello is hard. I don’t want to hear you complain about the guitar at all. I could fake guitar on my worst day, OK?'” She covers her face with her hands. “Berating a 13-year-old. Nice.”
One of the things that drew her to the script was its focus on New York. She was thrilled to shoot on her home turf. Keri is decidedly not a Hollywood- scene kind of actress, and it’s difficult to imagine someone so down-to-earth enjoying the L.A. lifestyle. “I’m not a California-hater,” she stresses. “I still go there all the time, but I just love it here. There’s such a nice balance of having some distance from work-it’s definitely not a one-industry town. I love being surrounded by interesting people. It’s just a different world from being in your car every day.”
Keri first moved to the city after Felicity ended and a friend persuaded her to choose Manhattan over San Francisco (“she sent me a bunch of books about New York-propaganda!”). She wasn’t even sure she would return to acting and felt she needed some time, which turned into a yearlong sabbatical, to contemplate her future. “I thought about going to school,” she says, “but ultimately I just decided to read books and get drunk every night and go out dancing with my girlfriends. I did all the nerdy things, too. I laid around in Central Park and read, and bought scalped tickets and went to concerts. It was really cool.”
It was also Keri’s first real chance to goof off and stop working-after all, she had been at it since the age of 15, when a spontaneously attended audition in Boulder, Colorado (she grew up just outside Denver), landed her a spot on The Mickey Mouse Club, on which she co-starred for three years. “We always joked that as soon as the girls reached 17 they would be let go because they were, like, possibly-having-sex age,” she says, laughing, “but the boys would stay until they were about 35.” She watches the careers of fellow famous ex-Mouseketeers with interest. “Britney, Christina, Justin and Ryan Gosling were all 12 when I was 17, so they were like little kids to me. I mean, I could drive,” she says. “They were all really nice and cute, though.”
While Keri describes herMouseketeer years as “awesome,” it’s pretty clear she wouldn’t happily usher River into showbiz. “When I see other kid actors, I think it’s so creepy-they’re actors, and it’s just a creepy, creepy thing. The good thing about my experi- ence was that I was with other kids and we didn’t relate to adults at all. They were like the teacher in Charlie Brown [cartoons] ,’wah wah wah,’ you know?”
Right now, she’s trying to figure out how having River in tow will affect the way she selects roles and how she’s going to accommodate him on sets. So far she hasn’t filmed anything since his birth, but she’s poring over scripts. “I’ll definitely bring him to sets,” she says with a grin, “though I’ve been in denial, thinking I wouldn’t need help, but I guess I will. It’s just that the idea of someone else taking care of my kid is so weird to me.” She’s also thoroughly resisting the typical New York haste to map out his future and enroll him in schools years in advance: “It’s crazy! Friends of mine sent their kid to, granted, a really cool school in California, but it cost 30 grand a semester. For junior high. Do you know how much college costs? Who can afford that?” She laughs. “I figure we need to find a fulltime babysitter before we start dealing with that stuff.”
There’s a tap on the window next to us: It’s Keri’s friend and River, who is fast asleep. She taps her wrist and looks quizzical; Keri nods and beckons them in. “I guess I’ve got to head to the photo shoot now,” she says, apologetic even though she’s stayed much longer than the celebrity-interview norm. She rolls her eyes skyward and blows a stray tendril of hair off her cheek. “They’re going to have to do some work to fix me up,” she groans, and then laughs.
She’s already bundling River up in his sling-he’s awake now, and looking at her with much the same besotted expression as the waiter hovering nearby. But she’s back in mom mode now, no longer a famous actress linger- ing over a midday coffee. Keri Russell is a regular New York girl, with things to do and places to be. Lifting River’s tiny hand into a salute, she dashes out the door into the sunshine.
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