From “Felicity” to film — and family

Actress Keri Russell stages a comeback in “Waitress,” but her big news: Baby’s on the way.

From:, 4/22/2007
by: Kevin Maynard

What does a TV darling do after a four-season run garnering devoted fans, great ratings — even a Golden Globe on a hit series? If you’re Keri Russell, not much.

In 2002, after wrapping up “Felicity,” the coming-of-age drama in which she starred as a comely coed, Russell more or less kept a low profile. “I knew I didn’t want to act,” she says. “I just needed to live my life a little bit.”

The 31-year-old actress is now back doing what she does best and enjoying the buzz surrounding her new movie, “Waitress,” an indie romantic comedy that offers up “a spangly reinvention of the chick flick, and, just maybe, the birth of a movie star,” according to Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman. Russell shines as a small-town server and pie baker who strays from the creepy husband who knocked her up, then falls for the local obstetrician.

The movie is a bittersweet tale made more so by the circumstances surrounding it: Adrienne Shelly, who wrote, directed and acted in the film, was murdered shortly before it was accepted and screened at Sundance.

“You really can’t imagine it. You couldn’t write something like that,” says Russell of the tragedy. Shelly’s film, which is at turns heart-rending and humorous, benefits from Russell’s unsentimental, tough-minded performance.

In person, Russell is anything but. She’s friendly and open, grabbing your arms when she laughs, even offering fruit off her plate. “When someone offers you food, you gotta eat it,” she says. “It always tastes better on someone else’s plate.” She really is like someone you knew from college — although she’s now grown up, and maturity becomes her.

“Her age is finally catching up with her wisdom,” says writer/producer J.J. Abrams, who knows Russell from way back (he created “Felicity,” “Alias” and “Lost”). “Of course, that doesn’t mean she isn’t a total goofball — she is. … When she laughs, she just totally loses herself.”

And that’s what she wanted to do more of once she left the long hours of “Felicity” behind. At 25, she followed the lead of her TV alter ego and packed her bags for New York. “I explored the city, hung out with friends, went dancing, got drunk, wandered home in the snow,” she says. “I did all the things I missed out on by not going to college.”

She also met a guy, carpenter Shane Deary, who became her husband on Valentine’s Day this year. “I love that his world is completely different from mine,” she says. “He comes home, and it’s not, ‘Oh, I really blew that audition.’ It’s all about finding the right drill bits. And that’s hot!” Russell laughs. “He can fix anything. He’s my MacGyver!” They’re preparing to move back into the Brooklyn brownstone he’s renovating in time for their new “arrival” sometime this summer.

Yes, Russell is pregnant, although “I don’t want to say exactly how far along I am,” she says, gently patting her belly. “I don’t need for any tabloids to have me on Bumpwatch.” But with two films in the can, don’t expect this working mom to keep too low of a profile.

“I would love to say that I’m gonna take time off,” she says. “But we just bought a house. There are bills to be paid!” With Russell’s career on the rise, rest assured, they should have no problem writing the checks.