From: Mademoiselle, November, 2001
By: Ann Wycoff and Suzan Colon
First things first: she’s 25 and she’s never lived in a dorm. It’s easy to assume that Keri Russell is basically the same person as her college-age TV character, Felicity, but you know what? She’s not. As the show enters its fourth season, Felicity is still gearing up to take on the real world. Keri’s been doing that since she left her Denver home at 17 after two years on The All New Mickey Mouse Club , the same perky boot camp that made Britney and Christina tough-as-corsets teen icons.
Keri’s image has always been more vulnerable. But all through her character’s highs and lows, not to mention the longest bad-hair day in history, few people managed to notice that Keri herself was evolving from a seemingly fragile newcomer to a sophisticated young actress.
This seems odd, given that she’s been forced to grow up in public. We were with her when she ended her off-and-on-again eight- year relationship with fellow Mouseketeer Tony Lucca. We watched her cope with near global disappointment after that cute-but- troublesome haircut, and we were with her as she grew out every agonizing inch. We would have liked to be with her for her publicized hookup with her handsome Felicity costar Scott Speedman, he of the profoundly soulful puppy eyes. They’ve since broken up, and she’s issued the standard “good friends” post- mortem. Only in her case, this gorgeous, sweet- natured woman is probably telling the truth.
After a yearlong hiatus, Keri is back and looking like a young Michelle Pfeiffer. At the Mademoiselle photo shoot, we straightened her very curly, shoulder-length hair, put her in Prada and let her gambol about Malibu. In return, she handed us backstage passes to the more-worldly-than-we-thought world of Keri Russell. Here’s what we discovered:
1. She suddenly cares a lot more about high fashion.
Oh, we’ve all seen her at awards shows, slinking around in Armani with those enviable shoulders exposed. But it turns out that Keri glamour moments were a bit of an aberration. Until now. “When it comes to clothes, I’ve tended to be basic–jeans, tank tops and flip-flops,” she admits. But in the last year, she’s surprised herself by developing a new lust for what she calls “adult clothes.” “My friend and I always have this discussion … there’s a fashion gap in our lives. We’re either in jeans or cocktail dresses and own nothing in between. So I’ve been getting braver and experimenting with designers like Katayone Adeli and Rozae Nichols. I love wearing boy-cut pants with frayed tops. I just bought a sheer black dress that Felicity would never wear in a million years.” Unless fashionable aliens abducted old Felicity in the middle of Art History 401.
2. The hair thing? It started as an innocent joke.
It was widely reported that Keri had secretly pixified her curly mane without consulting her show’s producers. The implication was that she was an unprofessional rebellious minx. The truth: getting the haircut was the producers’ idea. ‘I’d sent a joke Polaroid of me in a short brown wig to our executive producers, “says Keri. “They knew I was kidding, but two weeks before the new season, they asked if I would do it. I said, ‘Hell, no,’ but then I thought about it. My friends told me to go for it–saying I’d still have a job if it looked ugly. So I cut my hair.” Though this happened right around the time Felicity ‘s time slot was changed, the drop in ratings was blamed on Keri’s haircut. There’s nothing like a nationwide character assassination to cure you of naivete: “Everyone had something to say about it, and it put so much pressure on me to defend myself.”
3. She’s an expert office romancer.
Unlike most women her age–who have trouble keeping their emotional and work lives separate–Keri can compartmentalize as nimbly as most guys. Not so easy when you’re very publically dating your costar. Keri and Scott (who plays Ben) became romantically involved while their characters were also having a romance. Then the real- life romance ended. Or did it? “We’re not dating,” says Keri. “Absolutely not. We have to see each other at work, so we have to get along, and it’s okay. The truth is I love Scott, and I think we’ll always be really good friends no matter what incarnation our relationship is in.” But isn’t it a little uncomfortable to have to kiss someone on-duty when you’ve stopped kissing him off-duty? “It’s a very peculiar place to be,” Keri admits. “It can be complicated and tricky at times… because you have to be incredibly vulnerable in front of the other actor.”
4. She’s about to star in a big-screen update of Rapunzel.
Okay, we’re kidding. But Keri would be perfect as a princess cloistered alone in an inaccessible tower while men obsess over her hair. “I tend to be on my own a lot. If I’m not with some of my close friends, I am probably not doing anything on a Friday night. But I think I’m recognizing that it’s not so bad to be young and single and have a job.” After years of (pretty consistently) being half of a couple, she’s tasting independence for the first time, and…sort of loving it. In little doses, that is, thanks to 14- to 17-hour workdays.
5. When not exploring solitude in quiet rooms, she gets into life- and-death scrapes with rock stars.
Is it true that Keri was recently rescued from drowning in the Pacific Ocean by one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers? She laughs. “I’d just like to say for the record that I am a fabulous swimmer and never at any time have I needed help! But there was a riptide, and all of a sudden, my friend [that would be Anthony Kiedis] and a lifeguard swam over, made me hold onto a surfboard while we headed back to shore, and somebody told the world. It wasn’t as dramatic as it was made out to be, but the fact that Anthony happened to be part of the equation made it all that more delicious. Hey, if you’re going to get rescued, there might as well be a rock star involved.”
6. But when she is afraid, she’s not afraid to show fear.
“The first time I did The Rosie O’Donnell Show I locked myself in a hotel bathroom for two hours. I kept thinking, I can’t deal with this stress and anxiety. On the drive to the studio we saw people walking their dogs and I thought, I don’t want to do this. I just want to go walk a dog. I got through the interview, but it still ruffles me. For anyone who tends to be shy around strangers or in public situations, it’s kind of an occupational hazard. There’s nothing about it in the actors’ handbook. But it’s just one little moment, and no one cares.” No one, that is, except her own private focus group: “If I say anything remotely pretentious at all, I have some nice friends around me who’ll just kill me for it.” That’s what friends are for, right?
7. She’d rather live in a hut in Kenya than in a mansion, presumably with Katayone Adeli clothes.
“I don’t see the money I make because my lifestyle is pretty simple. I think it would be weird to be a 25-year-old who lived in a mansion. My luxury is that I take great trips and travel whenever I want. I’d like to go to Africa because I’m obsessed with nature shows.” And where would she send Felicity on vacation? “I’d suggest that she get a Eurail pass and have an affair with a young French pickpocket,” she says. And, looking at Keri in 2001, you’re not completely sure she isn’t speaking from experience.
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