Keri Russell sits down to speak with a small gathering of international press on the set of “The Americans,” which returns for a second season Feb. 26 on FX Canada.
You don’t have to be a spy — or even play one on TV — to know something is up. The reporters seem charmed out of their boots, downright perky.
Then she gets it: the press has just met her adorable, Canadian-born co-star, Holly Taylor.
“Holly girl,” says Russell. “She’s so lovely.”
Born in Nova Scotia, Taylor plays Russell and Matthew Rhys’ teenage daughter Paige Jennings on the edgy FX spy drama. The series is set during the cooling off of the Cold War in the early ’80s.
Russell is told that, for a young actress who had never really done a press conference before, Taylor was very impressive.
Russell — who’s been acting since she was a child herself — remembered how “smart and composed” Taylor was in her audition. The director had asked Russell to come in and read a few lines opposite a number of girls. “And she comes in and she’s just so — there’s her milky skin and those brown, brown eyes and she was just so funny and composed. She’s wonderful.”
Taylor, 16, just seems so un-Hollywood in the best possible way. She was in the very last scene of Season One where she discovers the big secret: her parents are posing as Americans but are really Russian spies.
“It felt like, really, really exciting, but really, really scary, because that was the last thing that people were going to see,” she says, “so it was like, I want to make sure that it’s good so that way people are like, on the edge of their seat.”
Taylor says her interest in performing began with dance. From there, she says, she got into “theatre-ish stuff.”
At 11, she landed the role of Ballet Girl Sharon Percy in the Broadway production of “Billy Elliot.” Still, she didn’t really see that as acting, “’cause it was a dancing show.”
Besides, she was still going to school at the same time, so she saw herself “kinda like Hannah Montana-like the best of both worlds or something.”
“Billy Elliot” lasted 22 months. After that, she started looking into acting more, although she was so shy it was difficult at first. “But then, the more I started to do it, the more I came out of my shell and the more I enjoyed it.”
That led to a trip to Los Angeles, where she did an audition tape for “The Americans.” It was then back to New York to “meet the producers and stuff” and from that one audition, she booked the show.
“So that was really cool!” she says.
The series is set about 15 years before Taylor was born. There’s a poster of Rick Springfield in Paige’s bedroom; All Taylor knows is he once did a song called, “Jessie’s Girl.” She sometimes gets him mixed up with “Bruce Springfield…er, Bruce Springsteen,” she corrects, but not before making all the reporters feel old.
She has no posters up in her room at home but if she did they’d likely be of Justin Timberlake.
What does she think of the early ’80s? First thing Taylor thought of was “Madonna and, like, neon colours.” Then the wardrobe people gave her all these dark colours to wear, and corduroy pants, and she was like, “This is not Madonna!”
She fell in love with a “super, super soft” tie-dye sweater which-“please don’t judge me, guys” — had a slice of cake on it.
“I just wanted to marry it,” says Taylor.
Born in Middleton, N.S., Taylor and her family moved to New Jersey when she was just two-and-a-half.
“I don’t know if you can count that I grew up there,” she says of Middleton, “but I just like saying I’m from there. It makes me feel better about myself, ’cause like, people are always like, ‘Oh, you’re from Canada,’ and then, it starts a conversation, so it’s cool.”
Her mother — who sits quietly through the interview — is from Ireland and her dad is from Scotland. She has an older brother, too.
“My family is kind of a big mutt,” she explains. She still has family in London, and her dad still does business in Canada, mainly Montreal.
Her adult co-stars, she announces, “are such divas!” Really she adores them both and has a pet name for Russell: “Keri Gold.” “It’s crazy how nice they are,” she says.
While the adults are nice, the adult content can get a little racy on “The Americans.”
“When I’m watching the show, I always have pillows next to me, so I’ll either run out of the room, or I’ll just like, put a pillow over my face and sing to myself or something, so I don’t hear anything.”
Occasionally, something really inappropriate will be on screen and Taylor will indeed run out of the room. “Sometimes, it just comes on, and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ — and you really have to run!”