From TV Guide, January 30, 2005
by Michael Ausiello
During a recent matinee performance of the off-Broadway play “Fat Pig,” Keri Russell appeared on stage for her first scene, and the crowd-packed with local high school kids-went bonkers. “They started screaming, ‘Felicity! Oh, my God, Felicity!'” Russell recalls, still a bit mystified. “You couldn’t hear the scene because of all the yelling.”
Who could blame them? They were merely expressing what millions of Felicity fans have been feeling for the past three years: a major case of Keri Russell withdrawal. Since the acclaimed WB drama ended its four-year run in May 2002, the Golden Globe-winning actress has been pretty much MIA.
“I just kind of shut down,” Russell says over dinner at a bistro in New York City’s West Village.”I was so tired and burnt out. I didn’t think I wanted to act anymore. I wanted to hide from everyone.”
Depressed with life in Los Angeles, the 28-year-old Southern California native pulled a Felicity and headed east. “I literally moved to New York with two boxes of books and my cats,” she says. “And for a year, I didn’t audition, didn’t read any scripts. I just read books, went out dancing with my girlfriends. It’s the best thing I could have done.”
Finally, Russell’s self-imposed hiatus was interrupted by a call from superproducer J.J. Abrams, who, prior to launching megahits Alias and Lost, cocreated Felicity. “JJ.-who is very persuasive-was like, ‘Keri, I need you to do me a favor. I wrote this Superman movie and we’re testing a bunch of guys tomorrow. Can you come in and read [for the part of] Lois Lane?'”
Although reluctant, Russell bit, and after months of tests and retests-during which a behind-the-scenes shake-up resulted in Abrams’ exit-the role ended up going to Kate Bosworth. No one was more disappointed than Abrams. “I miss Keri terribly,” he says of his former muse. “It blows my mind how talented she is. Not until years later could I totally appreciate the experience of working with her.”
Surprisingly, the “Superman” debacle didn’t push Russell back into early retirement. If anything, it yanked her out of it. “Something happened last summer where there was a shift, and everything’s just great,” she says. “I have such a different perspective on working. Now I work because I want to.”
So, following a year’s worth of “me” time, Russell dove back in. After completing a supporting part in the Kevin Costner-Joan Allen dark comedy The Upside of Anger (due out in March), she returns to TV as the lead in Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Magic of Ordinary Days. “There was something very simple and sweet about the story,” she says of the 1940s drama, in which her character-an unwed mother-to-be-is forced into a marriage of convenience with a lonely farmer, played by Skeet Ulrich.
Russell next saddled up for TNT’s forthcoming six-part miniseries Into the West (also featuring Ulrich). “I did it because I wanted to go ride horses,” she says with a laugh. “It’s so easy to get caught up in ‘Oh, that’s not cool.’ I don’t care if it’s not cool. I want to ride horses!”
That new, positive outlook has spilled into Russell’s personal life, too. Although there’s no serious boyfriend to speak of, she confides, “For the first time, I’m casually dating.” And no, Ulrich is not among the lucky guys she is seeing. “I am kind of in love with him, but no, we’re not dating,” she says of her recurring costar. And what about her romance with Felicity classmate Scott Speedman? “We totally dated [during Felicity],” she confirms. “And I will always love him. But we’re not together.”
With her well-reviewed run in “Fat Pig” over, Russell is currently considering a feature film that would shoot in the spring. “I know I’m doing OK when everyday things excite me,” she says. “I literally walk down the street and laugh. I giggle like a kid because I’m so happy.”
And now so are her fans.