‘Felicity’ star shone at Douglas High School

From: Rocky Mountain News, October 4, 1998
by: Michael O’Keeffe

HIGHLANDS RANCH — Keri Russell was a star long before she left here for Hollywood.

“She was one of those kids who stood out from the crowd,” Highlands Ranch High School teacher Beth Francis said.

“There are kids who do well and are dynamic that stand out in your mind. You’ll never forget them. She was one of those kids.”

Keri Russell, 22, is the hottest new face on TV, and it all began in Douglas County.

“You had the sense that what she was doing in high school was not going to be the highlight of her life,” said Jared Seidenberg, a 20-year-old University of Colorado student who grew up a block from Russell’s home in Highlands Ranch.

Russell always seemed to know what she wanted to do with her life and how to do it, said Cathy Heaton, Russell’s ninth-grade English teacher.

“She always did everything with such precision,” Heaton said. “She was always on top of everything. I’m really proud of where she is now.”

Russell stars in Felicity, the WB coming-of-age drama that premiered Tuesday and is the most talked-about show of the new season.

Felicity, which has been favorably compared to Ally McBeal, follows 17-year-old Felicity Porter. After graduating from high school, Felicity asks a guy she has a crush on to sign her yearbook. He writes something flirtatious. She decides to ditch her plans to attend Stanford and follow the guy to New York, even though he barely acknowledges her existence. Her parents are mortified.

That doesn’t sound like the Keri Russell that Francis remembers.

“She was one of those unique people who knew what she wanted to do even at that age,” Francis said. “She was very driven. She had an idea of where she wanted to go.”

Russell spent her early years in Mesa, Ariz. Her family moved to Colorado when she was 13.

University of Colorado student Chris Fish, 20, grew up down the street from Russell and remembers her as fun and outgoing.

“She was really involved in dance then,” he said. “She had a roomful of trophies.”

Russell’s career took off after a photographer shot pictures of her at a Colorado dance studio.

The photographs made their way to Disney talent scouts. Russell, then a ninth-grader at Highlands Ranch High, soon became a regular on the Disney Channel’s All New Mickey Mouse Club.

Russell missed big chunks of school while kicking off her career. But nobody remembers her falling behind in her studies.

“She had a lot of ambition,” Seidenberg said. “Her parents gave her a lot of support, and they gave her a lot of leeway at school.”

At 14, Russell had the same shimmering curls, dancer’s curves and magnetic eyes that have lately put her on billboards and magazine covers.

“She was gorgeous,” said Clare Anderson, who used to teach theater at Highlands Ranch. “But even though she was very successful, she was still very nice.”

“She was really down to earth,” Francis agreed. “She made everybody feel comfortable. People wanted to be with her. She had a magnetic personality.”

Russell left Highlands Ranch for California and new roles. Her resume includes TV shows Malibu Shores and Daddy’s Girls. She also starred in the Disney film Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. Upcoming films include Mad About Mambo and Eight Days a Week.

But the face that has recently been on Seventeen and Rolling Stone doesn’t look much different from the kid Francis knew at Highlands Ranch High.

“Her face matured a little, but she doesn’t look any different,” the teacher said. “She’s a wholesome, good-quality person. They need more of those in Hollywood.”