Though she’s mostly well known for Felicity and the critical darling The Americans, Keri Russell has a long list of credits that stretches back to the Mickey Mouse Club. When she was 17, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were just coming on the show as cast members. That Disney show was her first big break before the series that has cemented her status in the pop culture firmament, and arguably shaped her career. Russell played Felicity Porter, an idealistic high school student as she’s making her way to college. When she cut her hair, it caused a national uproar. But Russell says she’s got no regrets. “I did not expect all the hysteria,” she says. “I feel like it was so the right move and I’m really glad they did it.” Russell won her first Golden Globe for the show—which was created by Matt Reeves and J.J. Abrams, who would later cast the actress in Mission Impossible III—and was nominated earlier this year for her acclaimed spy series The Americans, which is coming to a close next year, a conclusion she’s slowly coming to terms with.”It will have been six years and I just feel like they have a really good ending,” she says.
What was the first thing you auditioned for?
The first thing I auditioned for, which probably is the highlight of my career, was the Mickey Mouse Club. I was a dancer and all my dancer friends in Denver, in Colorado, were going to this big open call with all these teenagers that Disney was doing. And we went and waited in line for probably hours for this Disney casting agent, Matt Casella and you finally get in and he’s like, “Okay do a little dance for me and then sing a song.” I was like, “No I don’t want to do sing a song.” And he was like, “What?” [Laughter] I said, “No, I, I don’t want to sing a song.” And he said, “Little girl, did you see the line of kids waiting outside this conference center to sing a song for me?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “I think you should sing a song.” And I said, “I don’t sing.” And he called me back anyway. I think he had me sing Happy Birthday or something. And so that’s what I did.
And you never sang. Were you excited about this or did you feel slightly embarrassed or was this like a big dream come true?
It was kind of the best first job because I think for a lot of kids who are in this weird business I just think it’s so creepy to be adultified, you’re one of two kids on a set and there’s all these adults. But that job there were 19 of us teenagers and it was just so fun, because the adults were invisible to us. And when I was 17 all the little kids were Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling, [and now] they’re all like hugely famous. But my best, most dearest girlfriends are all still my best friends.
And then after that, did you move to L.A.?
Yes, so I moved to L.A. at 17 to work the streets [laughs] and then I lived there for about ten years and then I did Felicity there and then moved to New York.
Felicity which was a very big deal you. What was the casting of that like because that was a huge thing when you got that part.
Sort of the same thing. Like a giant room full of tons of people and I just thought it was so funny, it really made me laugh. And I remember being in the waiting room with all these girls and we were all so young and they’re going, “Oh this part is so sad and she’s so…” I was like, “I think it’s hilarious.” I was like, “Am I doing it wrong?” But you know J. J. [Abrams] and Matt [Reeves], who created that show, are still good friends and they’re so great. And the whole experience was really good.
All right, so I feel I have to ask you because everyone asks. We have to talk about the hair thing. So you cut your hair or the director cut your hair?
I did. I was 21 or something like that [smacks lips] and J.J. called me over the summer. We had shot the first season of Felicity and then he said, “You know we’re coming with the storylines for next year and we have this idea that the boyfriend breaks up with you and then like college girl’s go, you would go and cut your hair because of this big breakup. Would you be willing to do that?” I said, “Yeah of course.” And so we did it and then there was like this crazy backlash. Yes, so my hair was curly and it was an awkward haircut, but even that I didn’t care, like I loved it. I thought it was so true and great. I did not expect all the hysteria. Strangers did come up to me on the street and say things like, “You were so pretty before you cut your hair.” [Laughs] I was like, “Hmm, thank, thank you.” [Laughs] Thank you for that. Or like people would come and go, “I like your hair!” [Laughs] And you’re like, “Thank you.” It just kind of grew out and was bad. I looked like a Chia Pet for a good few years. And then it was fine, but I have nice shoulders. And you know what, I feel like it was so the right move and I’m really glad they did it. What’s fascinating about our culture is we like women with long hair. But by the way I love women with short hair. Like their necks, it’s such a sensual part of their body. But Americans like women with long hair.
You learned this the hard way.
I learned this the hard way.
Nicole Kidman, Milo Ventimiglia and 11 More Actors Who Prove that Television Has Never Been Hotter
“In the show I play an abused woman, and I felt very exposed and deeply humiliated. I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom at the end of a difficult scene, and I wouldn’t get up between takes. I was just lying there, basically naked in half-torn underwear, and Jean-Marc Vallée [the director] would come over and place a towel over me. It was very hard.”
Kidman wears a Miu Miu dress and coat.
“As a girl, I was obsessed with the program 20/20—especially with the coanchor Hugh Downs. I thought I was going to marry Hugh Downs for a really long time. He was so dignified. Everything was going to be all right because Hugh Downs was going to tell you the important story you needed to know that Friday night. They just don’t do newsmen like him anymore.”
Marling wears a Prada dress.
“My first crush was Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I was maybe 8 or 9 when I first saw the movie, and I had never felt anything for a girl before that. I was just mesmerized by her. I watched the film over and over again because of Jessica Lange. I’m still not over her. Every time I meet someone, I compare her to Jessica Lange in Tootsie. That’s probably why I’m not married.”
Skarsgård wears a Cleverly Laundry robe; Schiesser Revival shirt.
“The Americans mostly takes place in the ’80s, during the Cold War. Anytime you’re wearing clothes that are unlike yours, it just heightens the moment. When I wear heels and silk shirts, slacks and blouses, it makes me feel like an adult. On the show, I wear a cat eye with black eyeliner, and it makes me feel like a panther. It’s so unlike me as Keri—this tired mom in flip-flops and jeans. And I love that transformation.”
Russell wears a Michael Kors Collection top; Philosophy briefs; Manolo Blahnik shoes; Louis Vuitton bracelet.
“For Homeland, I made an audition tape with a point-and-click camera and sent it in. The ratio was off. It was out of focus. I was also wearing the wrong thing, and I filmed it against a door that they later told me made it look like I was in a mental asylum. The producers were like, ‘Where the hell is this kid?!’ In the end, I did seven separate audition tapes of the same scene. They finally said yes.”
Friend wears an Hermès sweater; Sunspel boxers; his own ring and socks.
“I went to work on The Crown four months after giving birth. The queen didn’t wear a corset, but I did in the beginning. Now, in the second season, I have to wear a significantly padded brassiere. In the first season, it was all my own breast work, but now it’s ‘Ha! Where have they gone?’ The queen would be so ashamed of me.”
Foy wears a Louis Vuitton dress; Messika Paris bracelet.
“I usually get stopped in the U.K. before I board a plane. What’s funny is that Heathrow is in a heavily South Asian neighborhood, and the kids working at the airport are fans of mine. So while they’re swabbing me for explosives, they’re asking me for selfies. While they’re going through my underwear, they’re quoting my raps back at me. It’s quite a surreal experience that speaks to the insider/outsider status I’ve felt all my life.”
Ahmed wears a Bottega Veneta sweater; Jeffrey Rüdes pants.
“Even with the show, I still live at home in Liverpool. I can’t bring myself to leave just yet. My brother is 21 and he’s still at home, too. I said to my mom, ‘We’re going to be 30-, 40-odd years old and we’re still going to be living in the kids’ rooms.’ I’m hoping I will be able to leave the nest at some point.”
Comer wears a Marc Jacobs dress; Jennifer Meyer necklace; Larkspur & Hawk ring.
“During the screen test for Stranger Things, one of the directors came up to me and said, ‘Bzzz,’ over my head. He then asked, ‘Are you ready?’ I was like, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘To cut all your hair off!’ The next day I got the job and I cut it. My hair was down to here, but it’s only hair. After that, I was called ‘boy’ a lot.”
Brown wears a Balenciaga dress and tights; Chanel shoes; Jennifer Meyer ring.
“I worked at McDonald’s for a few months, and I got a couple of dates from taking orders at the drive-through window. I was enrolled in an acting class, and I would practice different accents. I was really bad, but people believed me. A young lady would say, ‘Oh, I forgot to order the strawberry milkshake’ and ask me about my Italian or Irish or Brooklyn accent. We would go out on a date, go back to the McDonald’s parking lot, and make out. Eventually, I had to break it to them that I wasn’t Italian or Irish or from New York. The girls would usually end it right then and there.”
Franco wears a Prada shirt.
“In playing Albert Einstein, I found out that he was not the archetypal absentminded professor. He was an energetic, slightly rebellious, rakish, sort-of-bohemian poet. And he was quite amorous—he had many lovers. Einstein wasn’t exactly a ‘player,’ but he enjoyed women, and when his first marriage fell apart, he became what you would call a ladies’ man. He gave up on monogamy.”
Flynn wears a Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978 jacket and pants.
“My dad, Stan Lathan, was one of the first black TV directors. He used to direct Sesame Street, and he blindfolded me once, and when he took the blindfold off, I was on the set. I got to meet Big Bird. It was my birthday, and the whole cast sang to me. That was the biggest thrill of my life.”
Lathan wears a Lanvin coat.
“I’m not a big crier. But family stuff gets to me. Fathers and brothers and children. If I wasn’t on This Is Us, I’d be a wet noodle watching the show. I’d be crying along with everyone else.”
Ventimiglia wears a Current/Elliott shirt; his own chain.
How did The Americans come about?
The Americans came about after I had just had a baby and I got a call and they’re like, “Can you go to a coffee shop and meet…” I was like, “I literally just gave birth like I can’t go to a coffee shop and meet someone [laughs] about being a Russian spy, okay?” Like I’m lactating, But I did it. So I went to a local coffee shop and [creator] Joe Weisberg started talking about being obsessed with joining the CIA. And what his vetting process was. And I was like, “Tell me everything.” “What did they ask you?” “What did you do?” “Have you done drugs?” “Did you admit it?” “How many times have you done drugs?” “What was…” I was so fascinated by the whole thing and so I was like, “Okay I’ll do it.”
Do you think you’d make a good spy?
I’m a terrible liar. But I do think people take for granted that I’m nice for some reason. And maybe deep down I’m not really nice. So I think I would get away with things in a way.
So next season is the last season. Are you sad that it’s ending?
It’s perfect because it will have been six years and I just feel like they have a really good ending. They’ve kind of hinted at what’s ahead and it’s really fitting to what it should be and it’s just such a good experience for a girl in this business that’s a good part.
Oh it’s a great part. So, who was your cinematic crush when you were growing up?
When I was a teenager I was making a movie right around the same time as Mickey Mouse Club under Disney called Honey I Blew Up the Kid. The guy who was directing it had also directed White Fang and I was 15, 16 and Ethan Hawke was in that movie and for some reason he was on these posters of a teenage movie with a girl with very curly hair, like, in a convertible. I’m sure it was some bad teenage movie and I thought he was really handsome. And the crew guys on those old Disney soundstages used to play jokes on me. Before there was cell phones everywhere there was a set phone on the wall and they’d go, “Um, there’s a phone call, there’s a phone call for Keri.” And I’d go, “There’s a phone call for me?” And they’d go “Yeah, yeah, yeah there’s a phone. It’s Ethan Hawke.” And I’d go, “Oh what, there’s a phone…” Ethan wasn’t calling me. First of all, he was probably like 25 and I was 14 and just out of braces.
Keri Russell’s Ever-Changing Hairstyles Through the Years, From Felicity to The Americans
Showing off her famous blonde curls, Russell attended the Sheenway School and Cultural Center honoring Congresswoman Maxine Waters in 1994.
Keeping her curls shoulder length with rosy cheeks and glossy mauve lip, Russell looked youthful at the 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards in 1999.
At the Eighth Annual MTV Movie Awards in 1999, Russell hit the red carpet looking fresh faced with her hair in a messy top knot.
Russell debuted her freshly chopped curls with a glossy nude lip at the The 52nd Annual Emmy Awards in 2000.
Glowing at the 8th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2002, the actress wore her hair in a simple, side-parted bun with a golden smoky eye and a satin red lip.
Russell transformed her bouncy curls into soft, swept over waves at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala in 2003.
With luminous skin and tousled highlighted curls, Russell attended the 15th Annual Glamour “Women of the Year” Awards in 2004.
At the 2005 Tony Awards in New York City, Russell wore her hair in a elegant up do with loose curls framing her face paired with a satin red lip.
The actress showed off her natural beauty with naturally tousled waves, dewy skin and a sheer pink lip at the 16th Annual Los Angeles Beat the Odds Awards in 2006.
At the Los Angeles premiere of Bedtime Stories in 2008, Russell wore her brunette bob in soft, voluminous curls with a light grey smoky eye and a satin berry lip.
Looking simple, yet chic, Russell’s “barely there” makeup look paired perfectly with her swept back up do at the The 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008.
Russell wore her hair in a playful, tousled top knot with a hint of cream blush on the cheeks at the screening of Leaves of Grass film in New York City in 2010.
Wearing her hair side-parted in sleek waves with a bold, hot pink lip, Russell looked sutnning at the screening of Austenland in 2013.
Russell looked rocker chic with her bold navy blue smoky eye and natural waves at The Americans panel during 2013 PaleyFest.
Wearing her hair in beachy side waves with sun-kissed skin and coral red lip, Russell looked easy and breezy at the 4th Annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards in 2014.
Russell wore her dark brunette locks in a tousled up do with an exaggerated cat eye and bold red lip at the 66th Annual Writers Guild Awards in 2014.
At an event in Paris in 2015, Russell channeled a French girl wearing her hair in a top knot with side swept bangs, a soft brown smoky eye and a satin red lip.
Russell wpre her hair in a sleek low bun with a dramatic navy blue and jade green smoky eye at the Costume Institute Benefit Gala in 2015.
Wearing her shoulder-length locks sleek straight, Russell wears a burgundy lip with a light silver smoky eye at The Americans season 4 premiere in New York City in 2016.
Keeping her hair in a simple, middle-parted up do while pairing a matte red lip with her red ensemble, Russell looked glamorous at the 70th Annual Tony Awards in 2016.
At the 2017 Costume Institute Gala, Russell opted for an edgier look wearing her hair in a tousled low pony with an exaggerated cat eye.
Russell looked radiant at the Metropolitan Opera House’s 2016-2017 Season Opening performance with her hair in an elegant up do, a natural eye and a sheer pink lip.