Keri Russell: "Felicity" and her Sisters

From: March 8, 2005
by: Lynn Barker

You may know her best as TV’s “Felicity” and wondered where she’s been lately. Talented young actress Keri Russell recently starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “The Magic of Ordinary Days” and will be seen in the mini-series “Into the West”, produced by Steven Spielberg. She has transitioned into stage work in the Off-Broadway production of “Fat Pig” and co-stars with Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen, Joan Allen and Kevin Costner in the comedic drama The Upside of Anger.

We chatted with the talented cast of the film recently in Beverly Hills and found Keri, who plays the sister obsessed with dancing in the film, to be very friendly and ready to share her experiences on “Upside” as well as her memories of her TV work and upcoming projects. Once criticized for cutting off her long, curly hair, the actress is back to her original “Felicity” look with a long mane of curls. In jeans, rolled sleeve shirt and tons of gold bangle bracelets, she looked casual and classy as she entered the room, grabbed a bottle of water and plopped down next to us.

TeenHollywood: You did some of the ballet dancing in the film but they didn’t let you go on point?

Keri: You know what? This is the sad truth. I was on point except for that one shot! (we comment that you don’t see her feet in the shot). I know! That’s horrifying. Point shoes are not wood but actually gauze and stuff, and if you hit them on the table they sound like that (goes thump thump). So, when you’re becoming a ballerina, you train and you develop blisters from using them and then the blisters eventually rip off, they bleed, they heal, and then you get another blister and it rips off (I go ewwwww) . . . this whole process continues until you form a callus, so the callus protects your foot when you’re up. It gives you the strength to do it. I had three weeks before we start shooting!

TeenHollywood: And then they didn’t even show your feet!

Keri: After I saw the movie I went to Michael (Binder, the director) and said, ‘I cannot believe you shot that one scene with me not wearing the point shoes. I cannot f——ing believe it’. . . And he said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. They wouldn’t know, so of course, it’s nothing.

TeenHollywood: How intimidating was it sharing the stage with the English National Ballet?

Keri: Very. Very intimidating. When they said I had to be front and center, I said, ‘you’re kidding. Can’t I be in the back somewhere’? But it was fun. I grew up dancing so it was always nice to revisit that, no matter how mad it is.

TeenHollywood: Did the dancers treat you well?

Keri: They did, and they were all so lovely, and it was exciting for them to be a part of the movie and the whole crew got to watch them dance and I think it was exciting for them. They were lovely.

TeenHollywood: We’re told that Joan Allen, who plays your mom in the film, has this amazing ability to turn on and off her performance. Is that true?

Keri: First of all, she’s incredible. I can’t say enough wonderful things about her, just as a person, a human being, as an actress. I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say she’s kind of like our hero. She’s so rare and graceful, and everything she does is her whole being. I loved that all my scenes got to be the really antagonistic stuff with her, because I got to do the good stuff with her. And I think we kind of got each other in a way, which always helps. No matter how good something is written, you either have this thing with each other or you don’t. Luckily, I think we did. I think it was pretty easy to work with her, she’s so good, and when you work with somebody that good, they kind of instantly make you better.

TeenHollywood: Did you have any time to bond with the other actresses playing your sisters?

Keri: Yeah, except they would all go for dinner after shooting and I would have my leotards and tights and was chucked off to ballet school, but it was great. And I adore Evan Rachel Wood. I love her. She reminds me so much of my little sister, physically as well. My little sister has very pale skin and is very blonde with blue eyes. Not every scene can always make it into the movie, but there were these scenes like smoking pot and trying to hide it from her. I really did like the girls. For a group of women, they’re complicated, they’re complex.

TeenHollywood: Do you find it easier to act in an ensemble cast like in this film where the whole weight of the movie is not on your shoulders?

Keri: It’s a whole different feeling, yeah. It’s a huge relief. Even going up to Sundance is such a fun thing because it’s not just me doing it. If I’m late, who cares? I imagine it’s like being the only kid in the family versus being one of many. It’s good not to have to be like the Number One student. And I got stuck in that a lot during “Felicity”. Kind of fun to be like the bad kid. That’s how I feel in this one.

TeenHollywood: How did Kevin Costner fit into this bevy of babes?

Keri: (laughs) Perfectly. I keep describing him as kind of like the St. Bernard of the story. We’re really fiery, always yelling and crazy and he kind of comes in, a big bear of a guy. He’s all man. He makes no apologies about it, he’s a good guy. He’s tall and he’s a MAN, and I appreciate it and I think he’s great and so charming in this movie.

TeenHollywood: Let’s talk about your other projects. Weren’t you up for Lois Lane in the new Superman Returns movie for a while? (Kate Bosworth got the part).

Keri: I would have loved to have done it, but that movie went through three different directors, so I was just merely a part of the process. It may be a blessing in disguise. I mean doing a movie like that is the next six years of your life. You at least probably do two of them, and you definitely sign on to do three. And those aren’t like three-month movies. They’re huge six-month movies in Australia, which is where that movie’s shooting. So it’s okay.

TeenHollywood: How was shooting “The Magic of Ordinary Days”, a period movie for TV?

Keri: It was great. The story was beautiful, and it was 1940s, and I thought it would be interesting. After “Felicity”, I just took almost over a year break that I really needed, and moved to New York, and kind of did my own thing for a little bit, and this (“Upside”) really was the first movie I did coming back. Then the next thing I did was “Magic of Ordinary Days”, and I think there was something about Skeet (Ulrich, her co-star)that interested me. He had taken time off too and moved to the farm to raise his kids. I think people come into your life at a good time, and it was really just a lovely thing. I really loved that part of the world, being in Calgary instead of going back to New York, I rented a car and took this road trip by myself into the mountains. I drove all the way to Vancouver, but on the way I stopped at these little lakeside cabins where I could take runs through the woods and stay the night.

TeenHollywood: Who do you play in “Into the West”?

Keri: There are six two-hour movies. Mine is the second movie which is directed by Simon Wincer who did “Lonesome Dove” with Robert Duvall. It’s really cool. That movie takes place in the 1830s, which is actually an interesting time frame because hasn’t been documented much; that first westward movement of settlers. I play this young girl who goes along with her cousins on a wagon train. I actually read a lot of these journals and diaries from women. It is fascinating. It blows your mind. First of all, that they would go on such a journey, so hard. Most of them would walk 60 miles after riding in these wagons. I would much rather walk the 60 miles. And the fact that you’re often pregnant and people died so often. I can’t imagine. You must have such a sense of adventure that you need a new place. It was fascinating. In the earlier journals, the women would talk about meeting up with the natives, and how they weren’t afraid of them. The Indians were incredibly peaceful and wonderful toward them actually. My character, of course, is the one who gets traded. But anyway, such a great experience. Learning to ride horses like that was great. I didn’t want to go home. That was shot in Calgary too.

TeenHollywood: How was it to do the Neil LaBute play “Fat Pig”? Isn’t it very emotional?

Keri: Absolutely. Especially this one. There was a female director which I think also really helped it. But it’s a very emotional piece, and I think it’s a little more personal than some of his other stuff. I play this ultimately hurt women but shit just comes out of my mouth. The language was a little out of control. So for me it was just getting to yell and vent at this guy and then walk away from it. It was like going to therapy every night. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend that they wish they could have said those things to. For me it was like vindication. I loved it — every second of it.