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INT: Keri Russell

May. 2, 2007by:

Better known as Felicity, the perky and pretty Mickey Mouse Club alum has validated herself as a credible actress by immersing into diverse roles highlighting her talents. Adding to a long list of TV and film credits, Kerri Russell most recently challenged her physical limits by choosing to accept the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III assignment. In the forthcoming film WAITRESS, Russell embodies a young, sweet, and unhappily, pregnant pie creator helplessly stuck in a miserable marriage.

Conceived, written, and directed by the late Adrienne Shelley, WAITRESS is an uplifting and inspirational romantic comedy, which demonstrates the beauty of friendship and a strong bond shared between three women who help one another weather individual storms. Tragically, Shelley didnt live long enough to enjoy the fruits of her labor, which was received with great love at the Sundance Film Festival. As an homage to Shelley, a very pregnant Russell sat down with us last week to share her thoughts on making this unique film, on entering motherhood, working with a wonderful cast, baking pies and the life of WAITRESS after Shelleys death.

Keri Russell

You recently made out with Zach Braff on Scrubs. Was that your first time on the show?

That was my first time on Scrubs, yes. I had never done that.

What appealed to you about the character in Waitress?

Sorry, I just came back from lunch. I have to snap to it. I have pregnancy brain. OK, Jenna. Where am I? What planet am I on? The thing about this movie, when I was read the script, its the kind of movie that I love to go see. It feels like the movieI loved You Can Count on Me, where its not just funny. Its serious just when you need it to be and true, sort of. I just thought that Adrienne [Shelley] wrote a great character.

And it really was all on the page, very much. This movie, more than any movie I have ever done, Adrienne had 100 percent control over. She wrote it, directed it, and acted in it. I mean, the jokes were EXACTLY the level she wanted, down to How are you going to do that face? Nnnn-nnah, I dont want you to do it like that. And Id be like, Jesus Christ. This was her movie. She wrote the songs that I sing in it. She wrote everything. She chose the color of our outfits, the diner set, all of it. She was very, very involved.

Did you learn how to bake a pie?

We shot the movie in 20 days. Come on, there wasnt a lot of pie-baking going on. But we always had pies around. We ate two different pies every day for lunch.

How much weight did you gain doing the movie?

I dont know. Working those hours, not much. We literally shot the movie in 20 days.

But you baked a little?

A little bit, a little bit. You know, cookies, easy stuff. Pies are a specific thing. The crust is a whole delicacy. Its got to be cold. Theres a whole art to it and spending so much time on the road, as you do on location, in different cities and hotel rooms, theres not a lot of time for cooking, especially when youre shooting nights or until 11 oclock at night and you come home and you eat a bowl of cereal. Youre not going to be cooking a pie. So now, maybe that Im home a little bit more maybe I will.

This character is a smart woman who gives us her real thoughts in the voiceover narration, but shes in marriage that makes you wonder why shes there. Why doesnt she just walk out?

I dont think its that uncommon of a story. Yeah, it looks really horrible up on screen, but I dont think its that uncommon. There are a lot of people in relationships who, you wake up and youre like, Wow, how did I end up here? Why am I still here and not satisfied? And I think she doesnt have much self-esteem. Being poor is an issue. And its an issue for women. Shes a waitress. Its not like she has a ton of money and a lot of options.

She doesnt really have anywhere to go and she has no family. I think when you dont have self-esteem its hard to see your way out of something bad like that. And I think what Adrienne also did really well in this movie is the bad guy, the bad husband is awful, but hes not this monster. I think in that scene towards the end you see how weak he is, how pathetic he is. Clearly theres something in that pathetic quality that Jenna danced with. She was part of that, as a lot of women are.

How realistic do you think Jennas relationship with the gorgeous doctor is?

How realistic? It is a fantasy, but I think its totally realistic. Its this catalyst to change her life, which I think is realistic. And I love how not sexy it is, how theyre both so awkward and carnal and just like embarrassing.

How was it to work with Andy Griffith?

Hes so great. Hes just a dream. Hes just a beautiful man and so professional. I think he had more to say, script-wise, than anyone else, and when youre older its not easy to memorize. He talked about that. He said, Its really hard to memorize lines and everything now. I have to really work on it. And he was a dream. He knew his lines better than anyone else. And dancing with him And the part, its such a great part because at that point in the movie you SO want to hear someone say that to her, like, Youre great.

What was it like working with Cheryl Hines and Adrienne Shelley?

I loved Cheryl so much and had so much fun with her. We would be having so much fun off set, like telling stories, and theyd say, Well, weve got to shoot, and wed say, But Cheryls not done with her story! (She then whispers): Just keep talking. Just keep talking. A lot of times wed sit around, Adrienne, Cheryl, and I, and talk about motherhood, babies, and things like that. So I love them both, and I think thats part of the film that is very real, the relationship with the women. Its something that I have in my life and, specifically, what I think southern women do real well is, even if their life at home isnt so great, they really have in-depth, romantic almost relationships with these women in their lives who are kind of more of an emotional connection for them than whats at home.

What has it been like for you to promote the film without Adrienne Shelly?

Its definitely a unique situation that were in. And, yeah, it is difficult not having our ringleader, not having our main person here. I get questions all the time, What would Adrienne say about And its like, I dont know. I dont know what she would say. So its hard.

Your experience of impending motherhood is obviously so different from your characters in terms of being happy

Yeah, it is very different, although I find her experience totally refreshing and fun, too. But, no, my experience is very different.

How are you enjoying being pregnant?

Im having a great, really easy one compared to my girlfriends. This is my first.

Have you spent much time with Adriennes child since the tragedy?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I have seen her. And shes in the movie. Ive seen her and Andy, thank God, is a great dad and a great husband. Theyre doing the best they can.

Were you inspired by this movie (to get pregnant)?

Well, I think its just my age. Im at that age. Im in my 30s and thats when people are having their kids.

How do you think youll carry on your career after your child is born?

Who knows? I dont know. I find it fascinating how people can do it, do both. It seems impossible to me right now, but I watch my girlfriends do it. They do it. Well see how it all goes.

What can you tell us about August Rush, which is you with Freddie Highmore.

Freddie, whos so great in it. That comes out this fall. I play a young cellist, like a prodigy, who is touring and doing concerts. Basically, the story is that shes very young and she has a one-night fling with this Irish rocker, who is Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is also a really talented musician. So two musicians have this one-night stand, never see each other again, and she gets pregnant. Believe me, Im typecast as the young, pregnant mother. I dont know what it is in my face that screams that. My last four jobs, I think, Ive been pregnant.

In Into the West?

Into the West, I was pregnant, but then there was some other TV thing with Skeet Ulrich God, why cant I remember? Anyway, that whole thing was being pregnant. And the last movie I just finished with Sigourney Weaver, I was pregnant. Thats called The Girl in the Park.

And August Rush?

The dad, my dad, who is kind of in control of my career and everything, lies to me, basically. I get in this accident and he tells me that the baby has died, and he gives the baby up for adoption. So I live the next continuing years obviously not very fulfilled and depressed. Basically its the story of this little orphan boy who runs away from this orphanage. Its kind of like a fairy tale Oliver with music, and he goes in search of his parents. Its really beautiful and sweet and Terrence Howard plays a really great part in it. They got great people. Its shot in New York and it uses New York really well. Its like a big, sweeping, beautiful movie.

Having started your career at such a young age are you still as passionate and wholehearted about performing and would you condone your kids to act?

I think Im probably more passionate about it now than I was a kid. When I was a kid, I didnt know what I was doing. I think the first time I realized I was acting was during Felicity. I think I was just going along for the ride. They were like, Do you want to do this? and I was like, Sure. I dont think, as a 15-year-old, that you maybe you do, I dont know think, Im a serious actor. I never studied acting or anything when I was that age. So I think Im more serious about it now, or more conscious of it, Id say. And, no, I wouldnt let my kid do it.

Do you think motherhood will affect your choices in movie roles in the future? Some actors take into account what their own kids will be watch of their work later on.

I have no idea. I have no idea. It would easy for me to say, No, Im not going to change. But Im sure you change to some degree.

What do you think WAITRESS says about and to women?

Thats interesting that you say that because watching it for the first time at Sundance you make a movie and you have a whole experience making it. I wouldnt say that my experience making it was necessarily uplifting, but watching it with an audience, I was surprised at how hopeful it was at the end. And really, it was sort of a story about believing in yourself ultimately, and caring enough about yourself that you say, I deserve to have a great life and I deserve better than this, which I think is a really common story. So, yeah, I do think it speaks to that for women, and it was surprising to see it for the first time as a movie all put together with music. I really saw that and I liked that.

Given the circumstances with Adrienne Shelley, is it hard to watch the movie without getting emotional for reasons other than whats on screen?

Yeah, it is weird. Cheryl and I sat through two screenings at Sundance and the second one we kind of said, You know, we dont have to get sad about this. Lets try to enjoy this one. Lets see it. Its just a happy movie. But as soon as that kid comes on at the end, its just like, Jeez. Its right there. So its pretty weird. Its a weird situation.



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