In the new FX drama “The Americans,” Keri Russell plays the role of Elizabeth Jennings, a knockout K.G.B. spy living in America in the early 1980s. With the recent announcement of the show’s second season and a new movie in theaters now (“Dark Skies”), Russell’s one busy lady, but not too busy to chat with T about her new job, closet workouts and newfound love of mascara.
Q.Can you take me through a typical workday for you?
A.A typical workday for me, if we’re shooting on the stage in Brooklyn, is get up, make my son River’s lunch, then hop on my bike, grab a coffee at a local place and bike to work. The set is just a few blocks from my house! I’ll have the headphones blaring like some carefree teenager, if only for just those few minutes anyway.
Your co-star Matthew Rhys recently said in an interview that your dancing background lent itself well to kicking men’s heads through walls. Do you think it has come in handy throughout your career?
Dance has helped me with everything. It was a great foundation for discipline, hard work and, unfortunately, the ever-elusive idea of perfection. It lends itself easily to fight choreography, because that’s what it really is. Choreography. And knowing how to move with someone.
Do you keep toned and in shape solely by all your on-set activity, or do you supplement that with other forms of exercise?
When working this much, I have very little free time, especially with kids — any free moments, you want to be with them. But I do have this nerdy thing I call my closet workout! I literally do it in my closet. I put on one of those Tracey Anderson DVDs with my own music, dance around and do some hilarious, butt-toning exercises. It’s pretty awesome.
The show takes place in the early 1980s. Have you been enjoying the look of your character and has that seeped into your real lifestyle lately?
I love the character’s 1981 clothes and makeup. Our costume designer, Jenny Gering, is doing such cool stuff. Silk shirts and gold necklaces, lots of knee-high boots and some sweet high-waisted Lee jeans with zippers on the back pockets. And I secretly love the makeup. Lori Hicks, the lead makeup artist, came up with this supergloppy mascara thing we do for Elizabeth. And some good eyeliner. She actually mixes two pot liners, one by M.A.C. in black with a YSL Eye Liner Effect in Sea Black, I love it. I’ve taken to the mascara glop idea and have been piling it on in my everyday life too.
Your skin is so beautiful! What are some of your favorite skin care products?
I don’t have time for any special skin routines. Many a night I go to bed with the gloppy mascara and all. But I do generally have dry skin so any rich creamy moisturizer will do. Astara has a nice creamy one, as does La Mer. When I do have time to wash my face, I use the cleanser by Eve Lom that comes in a jar, and you scoop it up and warm it up in your hands. For the eye area I’ve used Shiseido eye cream for a long time.
What are some of your product essentials?
Dr. Hauschka lip balm is a staple. And under-eye concealer. I like the creamy yellowish one in the pot by Lorac. I always have mascara. I’ve been using black waterproof Dior Show — and lots of it! And Hauschka bath oils, lavender, sage, spruce — I like them all.
You mentioned you noticed your girlfriends getting older, but also getting even more beautiful. Do you feel women should be more accepting and comfortable with the aging process?
I don’t want to tell anyone what to do — but, yes. I’m in my late 30s now and I feel that my girlfriends look better now than they ever did. Everything just works. I do secretly want my 21-year-old butt back. But other than that, I like being here, this age.
Your husband, Shane, is a carpenter. You said his art is functional and lasting, whereas acting is ephemeral. But don’t you feel a good TV show can be a good escape and can have a lasting effect on viewers?
Acting is a strange profession, and, yes, sometimes I struggle with its worth, its value in the world. A house, you need, you use. A table you eat at every day. Getting makeup on and pretending to hold a fake gun at someone you don’t really know and pretend to shoot them in front of a crowd of 200 people at 3 a.m. on a Thursday night can all be a little ridiculous at times. That being said, I do know how much I love going to the movies. Especially by myself and escaping into another world of pure feeling and visual art. I love the way a movie, TV show or a play can inspire me. Or can make me see something new from a different perspective. And now more than ever, I’m really enjoying working — acting.