Weekender Interview | Keri Russell

Making the ‘impossible’ transition from ‘Felicity’
by: Kelly Rizzetta
From: Tufts University Daily, posted: 4/27/06

Mata Hari, Lara Croft, Sydney Bristow – even Foxxy Cleopatra – but Felicity?
Okay, so Keri Russell’s fresh-faced, late-’90s WB persona probably doesn’t scream international woman of mystery, but that’s just because the world hasn’t yet been exposed to her latest role as secret agent Lindsey Farrin, rookie spy and newest member of the “Mission: Impossible” task force. Starring opposite the likes of Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laurence Fishburne, Russell promises that her newest film will have her using high-tech spy gear, jumping out of buildings, and generally being a “bad-ass” – apparently even more so than when she got that tragic hair cut in Season Two of “Felicity.”
Granted, her real-life demeanor is probably closer to her Mouseketeer roots than to this femme fatale character, and anyone who dialed into Russell’s college press conference call last week could almost see her trademark dimply smile oozing across the phone line. But somehow, Russell managed to strike a comfortable balance between squeaky-clean Felicity and sassy Lindsey to portray herself as the genuine, unassuming, I-could-be-your-best-friend gal that we all secretly hoped she was.
With “M:I3” set to hit theaters next Friday, Russell took the time to have a delightful little chat with The Daily and a dozen other college correspondents about her upcoming role in the film.

Q: You started your career fairly young. What, if any, sort of changes or different directions has your acting career taken you in?

KR: I think the whole thing is a surprise! That’s one of the craziest things about this profession is, you know, one day, you’re growing up in Colorado and the next you’re shooting in Europe. And then you’re doing a western and learning to ride horses, or you’re jumping off buildings with Tom Cruise. I mean, the whole thing is a surprise, which is what’s so kind of brilliant about this whole process.

Q: You’ve been talking about all the stunts, [but] what was the hardest that you had to do for this movie?

KR: Okay, let me think about that. It’s definitely a toss-up between – there’s so many! I would say the training segments were the hardest. Having to assemble a machine gun blindfolded within 30 seconds – which, my best time was 15 [seconds], by the way.

Q: Do you think this movie will live up to or even surpass the first two movies [1996’s “Mission: Impossible” and 2000’s “Mission: Impossible II”]?

KR: Well, I can’t compare it to the previous movies, but I can tell you that whenever I do a project and I see it for the first time, I have this cringe-factor where I’m always too critical of myself. And I think, “Oh God, this wasn’t as good as I thought it was!”
And this is the first movie that I’ve been a part of that I actually saw for the first time and thought it was awesome! I was like, “This is the coolest thing ever! This is amazing; I can’t believe I made it!” So if that’s any indication…

Q: When “Felicity” ended, [director] J.J. Abrams had said that he’d invited you to do some stuff on “Alias,” but you turned him down. So what convinced you to do “M:I3” [also with Abrams]?

KR: Well, I have to say there’s a little bit of a difference between “Mission: Impossible” and “Alias,” no offense to the television show. Also, at that time, you know, I have to be fair; [after] “Felicity,” I didn’t want to do anything. He could have offered me “Mission: Impossible” that year, and I still probably would have said no. I just needed a break; I think I was a little overworked.

Q: In this new stage of your film career that’s taken place after “Felicity,” we’ve seen you do a couple of different kinds of movies. There was “The Upside of Anger” (2005), and that was small and character-driven. And now there’s “Mission: Impossible,” and this is just a huge blockbuster. Are you trying to define your film career in any one specific way from here on in?

KR: I’m just trying to constantly do things that interested me; I think that’s what we’re all trying to do. I don’t think anyone wants to do a single kind of job, day in, day out, so it’s fun to do something like “The Upside of Anger” and work with someone like Joan Allen and get to be around her and then do this western [“Into the West,” a TNT miniseries in 2005] and get to be around cowboys and then be with Tom Cruise and do this huge movie. I mean, they’re all such individual experiences and all totally worth having, and if you can do ’em, go for it, you know? So I don’t think that it’s any one way I’m trying to define my career; I’m just trying to stay interested in it.

Q: What’s something quirky about yourself that no one else would know?

KR: I just had to play a cellist in this last movie I just finished [“Rohtenburg,” an indie crime/horror thriller set for limited release later this year], and I can play two concert-level pieces now. [laughter]

Q: Like we talked about before, you’ve been working with a lot of bigger name actors. If you could work with one of them again, which one would it be and why?

KR: Hmm, I’ve worked with some great people. You know, I honestly would have to say Joan Allen or Kevin Costner [both co-stars from “The Upside of Anger”], for different reasons both of them.
Joan was just grace personified; she’s so talented and so rare and just an artist. She was just so easy and great and effortless to be around. In the same vein, I feel like … [Kevin is] really interesting, because he’s one of the last real macho guys. Especially in our generation, we look at guys – We want them to be so much more than just a guy. They have to be sensitive, they have to be, like, all these other things, and Kevin was just a guy, you know? And I thought he was really good, too – especially in that movie – and I would love to work with him again.

Q: I was interested in looking at all the different things you’re doing. You’re almost a quadruple threat with your film and television and theater, and now your print modeling. [Russell will be the newest CoverGirl spokesmodel in a series of ads set to debut this summer.] Do you have plans to do a song or are you focusing on film for awhile?

KR: Oh, for the love of God, no, I’m not gonna sing!

Q: Is there a certain memorable experience, your favorite part of shooting the film?

KR: I just would say all of the massive [stunt] stuff with Tom. I mean, it’s so neat to be doing that with Tom Cruise… This is literally the way they [the stunt coordinators] explain it [a stunt] after they’ve spent eight hours setting it up: “Okay, we’re gonna harness you into Tom, and you’re gonna jump out of the window, land on a van, and as soon as the van gets six inches away from this building, it’s going to explode. Listen, if your hair catches on fire, don’t let go of the van, because you will fall off.” Okay, great, thank you so much. You’re like, “Should I call anyone to tell them I love them before this happens?”

Q: With the media buzz surrounding Tom Cruise during the filming of “Mission: Impossible III,” how did that affect the filming of the movie and you yourself? What’s your perspective on that whole thing?

KR: Well, it didn’t affect me at all. You know, I’m not dating him or I’m not in his family or anything like that. But, um, I don’t know what to say. You know, his personal life is his personal life, and as far as I was concerned, he was so great to me. We were like brother and sister on the set. We just, like, had fun; we were pushing each other around. So I can only speak from my own experience, but my own experience with him was pretty great.