From: Seattle P-I, 6/2/1998
Next season could be very, very Keri. Keri Russell, that is. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
A year ago, it was Jenna Who, Calista Saywhat. But now we sure know the Misses Elfman and Flockhart, elevated to household-name status on the wings of “Dharma & Greg” and “Ally McBeal,” this season’s most talked-about new series.
For 1998-99, look out for Russell, the 22-year-old ((age)) actress who plays the title role in “Felicity,” a new coming-of-age drama on The WB network.
Although The WB schedule was officially unveiled just two weeks ago, “Felicity,” which won the Tuesday at 9 p.m. slot, had already been a cinch to make the fall roster.
“When they told me a month ago I was coming to New York, I figured that was a pretty good sign,” Russell said May 19, the day the network made its fall lineup official.
Whisked into Manhattan 48 hours earlier from Ireland, where she is making a movie, she was taking a breather in her hotel room before dashing to the airport for the flight back to Dublin.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” she acknowledged. “There are so many people who need things from you, and you want to please everyone.”
To wit: She spent the day before in a photo shoot for Seventeen magazine while shadowed by a reporter from Entertainment Weekly. Then the whirlwind resumed early the next morning at The WB’s “upfront” presentation – a breakfast session for advertisers held in a hotel ballroom so jammed that fire marshals barred latecomers.
One of a score of WB stars in attendance, Russell shared a table with Paul Schulman, a leading media analyst, and several of his advertiser clients.
Russell and “Felicity” were awarded an early thumbs-up from Schulman and other such prophets who advise their clients on promising new series.
“Keri is very special,” Schulman says. “I think that viewers are really gonna care about what happens to her week after week.”
With gray eyes, a dazzling smile and ample curly hair, Russell exudes a girl-next-door quality . . . if your neighborhood’s in heaven. She calls acting “a thing I kinda fell into” – a photographer discovered her in a dance class – “and I’m just riding it.”
But at quite a clip. In the past few busy years she has made features and TV films, as well as landing roles on NBC’s short-lived teen sudser “Malibu Shores” and CBS’s Dudley Moore sitcom “Daddy’s Girls.”
In December she read the script for “Felicity” and fell in love with it, she said, although the role would exact a certain challenge: Felicity, a California girl about to enter college, is supposed to be a wallflower.
Despite her timid nature, Felicity on a romantic impulse decides to ditch her plans to attend Stanford. Instead, she heads for New York University, set on becoming an artist rather than the doctor her father had in mind. And there you have the series already nicknamed “Ally McBeal Goes to College.”
“The show is about life changes and putting your hope and strength toward making those changes,” Russell explained.
Having won the part, she filmed the pilot a few weeks later. Capturing the character was easy, she said.
“I tried to make Felicity not body-conscious, wearing these great big sweaters. She’s not comfortable in her skin. She doesn’t know how to be coy yet, to be aloof and cool.”
Then, as the wait began to see if “Felicity” got picked up as a series, Russell watched with pleasure as “Dawson’s Creek,” a WB mid-season arrival with a similar focus on youthful self-scrutiny and hormones, soared in popularity.
“It was a litmus test for us,” she noted.
In mid-July, Russell will finish her film, a romantic comedy set in Belfast with the working title “Mad About Mambo.” Then, back home in Los Angeles, she will plunge into “Felicity.” And wait to see if all the buzz translates into an approving roar.
“It’s weird, daunting,” she conceded when asked about the fame she may have in store. “I don’t know yet how I’m going to deal with it. But I hope I find some way to work it out.
“In Ireland, they say, `Are you sorted?’ I hope I get sorted.”