Catching up with Keri Russell: New Mom, New Cause, New Movie

From: 11/9/2007
by Natasha Burton

“Waitress” and “Felicity” star Keri Russell talked to’s Mommywood from San Francisco where she was attending a pediatric conference as the new spokesperson for PKIDS (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases). Although her work takes her all over the globe, Keri, and her contractor hubby Shane Deary, have made New York City their home base.

We chatted about life with her four-month-old son, River, and her current projects, both philanthropic and on the big screen.

Are you adjusting to your new role as a mom?

It’s really good! It’s a whole new world, I’ll say that! We like him very much. It’s going great and he’s such a good little traveler, too. For work I have to travel so much and he’s been on the plane with me many times. He’s so good. I just hope he stays that way!

Any recent milestones for River?

You know, every week something new starts happening and it just gets that much more fun. He started smiling and you’re just thinking, Oh my god!,” after all those months of just taking care of someone without any recognition or acknowledgment at all. And then he actually starts to look at you and smile. Now he’s starting to laugh and he can hold himself up more. Every little step along the way kind of makes it easier in a way for me. And it is true that around four-and-a-half to five months they start to get happier, a little more comfortable in the world. And when they’re happy, you’re happy.

How do you balance your career with your new family?

Oh, boy. I’m learning along the way, that’s for sure!

I do have to say that in the beginning I was very much in denial. I thought I didn’t need any help, that I could just do it all on my own. I was schlepping River to photo shoots and interviews, just praying that he’d stay asleep in the sling until I finished an interview or a script. I got my first babysitter last week. And my, oh my, does that help! It wasn’t as clear to me because I don’t go to an office nine to five, and my work is very sporadic and all over the place. I have a girlfriend in California who emailed me and said, “Don’t be a martyr. You need help.” And it’s true, even if you have somebody just so you can go for a walk in the park. You come back and you are such a better mom for it. I would say a little bit of help goes a long way.

With your busy schedule, what drew you to devoting so much energy to PKIDS?

As a new mom you’re inundated with all this new medical information, facts, tips for how to keep your baby safe. I, like everyone, was researching everything. Basically PKIDS knew I was a new mom and the organization was looking for someone to partner with. This campaign, “Silence the Sounds of Pertussis,” is about encouraging parents to talk to their pediatricians and get the adult booster for pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.

What should people know about pertussis?

What I actually found interesting is that in over half of the cases in infants, the babies actually got it from their parents or their primary caregivers. All of us get this vaccine when we’re younger but it wears off. This campaign tells new parents to get the booster to protect their babies. Shane and I got the shot once River was born. Adults can walk around for months with whooping cough and it’s no big deal. It’s just this crazy cold they can’t get rid of. But infants can die from it. The only deaths from pertussis are in infants because they stop breathing when they are wheezing so much.

Besides this philanthropic endeavor, what’s keeping you busy work-wise?

Right now, the last film I did, “August Rush” is coming out at Thanksgiving time so I’ll be doing a lot of press and premiere type stuff. It’s a really great family movie. It’s fitting that I’m doing all this mom stuff right now because it’s a great movie for the whole family to go to. It’s really romantic and it takes place in New York City. It’s all about magic and finding your family—it’s really beautiful. I’m also reading new scripts all the time. I haven’t officially taken one yet, but I’m getting closer. Really, I’m just taking care of River, that’s my main job!