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Americans Star Keri Russell Talks Russian Spies and Raising Kids

America fell in love with Keri Russell, 41, in her Golden Globe–winning TV role as the star of Felicity in the late 1990s. Today, she’s best known for her performance as Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans, which begins its sixth and final season March 28 on FX. Russell lives in Brooklyn with her TV husband and real-life partner, Matthew Rhys, 43, their son, Sam, 22 months, and Russell’s two children from a previous relationship, son River, 10, and daughter Willa, 6.

Is the spy game losing its luster for Elizabeth?

I think Elizabeth is very stressed out. She’s incredibly alienated, overworked and lonely. She’s taken on more than she can handle.

Do you think you would be a good spy?

I’m not a great liar and I’m not good under pressure. I spaz out. Elizabeth is so calm and centered. She’s so like a panther. I’m not like that. I wish I was.

Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, are Russian spies, yet we root for them.

Which is great, because it puts a face on this giant country of people that we’re struggling with right now—they’re all people with lives and families.

Is it easier to do love scenes with someone you love?

It’s a weird thing. I think maybe it’s a little bit the opposite. When you’re pretending you know the other person, because this show is pretend, you’re like, “I know you and this is embarrassing.”

In the first episode of the final season, there are six hair changes. Do you ever get a wig and go, “I might do my hair like that”?

There are so many wigs. Sometimes, yeah. I remember there was this very shortish, blond thing and our makeup artist was like, “When you get older, you can do that.” She’s like, “You always have to go lighter.”

What were Sundays like growing up?

My early years were in Arizona, and we moved around a lot. My mom would make us go to Sunday school. We lived in a neighborhood with tons of kids. When it got dark, your mom just yelled your name and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to go.”

What are Sundays like now?

We make a point every Sunday to have a late lunch, maybe because of Matthew’s Welsh influence. We almost always do a roast chicken or some sort of roast. We make all the kids sit there and talk about their week. The 10-year-old is like, “Oh, my gosh—how long is this going to last?” We usually make a fire, and that’s our family time.

Is life in your 40s what you expected it to be?

To be completely honest, at this moment it’s an uphill sprint. There’s not a lot of self-reflection; just keep your head down and keep running. But when this is all over, I will be very thankful for this moment in my career, this moment in my life, that I’m with a partner I love and am excited and engaged by, and that I have these kids who are healthy and this job that was so creative, cool and satisfying.

All the different looks Elizabeth takes on, does that help you play the different aspects of the character?

It does. For instance, there’s a character in the first episode with the red hair. First of all, I love that outfit. It’s hilarious to me. I become invisible, like literally I’m an invisible person. The crew guys don’t even look at you. It’s amazing. I walk down the street, it’s really funny. And when I put that outfit on every morning, I text my girlfriends the picture of myself and they’re like, “Please, can that lady meet us at the bar? Please? Those pants, that hair, she needs to come to the bar.”

Are you getting different scripts now than before The Americans?

To be totally honest, I haven’t sought out work that much, because this takes up so much of my life, and then we have all these little kids right now, so I tend to spend my summers at home. There’s been nothing attractive enough to take me from that. Maybe after we finish and when I see what’s out there, I hope. I don’t know. This one’s hard to beat, because this is a pretty good one.


Favorite snack Pasta with butter and salt

Favorite brunch Huevos rancheros

On her nightstand “Like 8,000 books I have not read and will, like Zadie Smith, poetry books, so
many books.”

Always in her on-set trailer Good-smelling candles

Last show she binge- watched The Handmaid’s Tale and Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War

Pets “We had a great cat, but he died two years ago. My kids are begging for another one, but we’ll see.”

She can’t resist humming . . . “Probably some stupid kids’ song. Our youngest goes to a little music class with baby songs about being a New York City kid.”