When “Felicity” ended in 2002 and Keri Russell found herself at a crossroads, the actress looked to the person she knew best for guidance: Felicity.
Just as her character did at the start of the series, Russell packed up and moved to New York to start anew. It was life imitating art, but most importantly it was life.
“After ‘Felicity,’ I was just really tired and burned out and I needed to get more of my life back,” Russell recalled recently. “I have some really good girlfriends [in New York] and I just hung out and acted like a kid again, read books all day and it kinda saved me.”
Russell considered going back to school but educated herself through books instead. “I filled my brain with something other than going to interviews and getting my photo taken and all these things, and I needed that,” she said. “[Show-business] life is not real. I mean, this is nuts. The sh– you’re given for free and first class and all these things. It is very fantastical. [It's good to] go back because you’re craving qualities of a different life.”
After more than a year of thinking she might never act again, Russell started to miss it. “I was ready to come back when scripts started interesting me again,” she said.
One of those scripts was “The Upside of Anger,” a comedic family drama that opened last weekend and goes into wide release Friday.
“I really like movies about family and little intricacies and the dysfunction,” explained the actress, who said she grew up in a family that showed little emotion.
The film was already cast when Russell went to director Mike Binder, but she expressed her interest and he followed up when an opening arose. The role, a dancer and the most innocent of four daughters, was perfect for Russell, who danced when she was younger. Even more appealing to the actress was that Joan Allen, one of her idols, would be playing her mom.
“Joan was such a good example for me,” Russell said. “The integrity of her as a person, the grace, on top of being so talented, is something I needed to be reminded of. That you could still work really hard and maintain who you are.”
After “The Upside of Anger,” Russell went right into the western “Into the West,” a Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries the actress enjoyed just as much.
“I wanna do anything riding horses again,” Russell said. “Riding horses changed my life. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really did. Getting to ride that hard and your hair is blowing … And I learned to mount bareback, where you grab the mane and swing on. I cried when I had to leave.”
“Into the West” also stars Sean Astin, Simon Baker, Tom Berenger, Josh Brolin, Rachel Leigh Cook and Skeet Ulrich, although the series is broken into six separate two-hour movies, so not all of the cast members are onscreen together. The series will air in June.
“If I could do westerns for the rest of my life, I would, or at least hang out with cowboys for the rest of my life,” Russell said. “If I could have my tiny little apartment in New York City and some little ranch with horses, that would be a dream come true.”
For more on “The Upside of Anger,” check out the feature “Five Angry Women.”
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