Filed in Articles & Interviews The Americans

Keri Russell on Her First Emmy Nomination, for ‘The Americans’

In 1999, after a single season as the bountifully curled college student at the helm of WB’s “Felicity,” Keri Russell won a Golden Globe. Seventeen years and countless hairstyles later, Ms. Russell has finally earned recognition for the strongest role of her career — an Emmy Award nomination for playing Elizabeth Jennings, the K.G.B. agent and master of disguise, on FX’s “The Americans.” The 68th Emmy Awards will be held on Sept. 18.

It was the first Emmy nomination for Ms. Russell, who, despite high marks in that critically acclaimed show, had been overlooked its three previous seasons. The icing on the cake: Matthew Rhys, her onscreen husband (Philip Jennings) and offscreen partner, earned his first nomination as well.

“To be honest, we weren’t paying attention to it at all, because for so many years we haven’t been acknowledged,” she said. “What a fun surprise. Because in a strange way I feel like we’re the bad kids who got invited to the party — like somehow this year we slipped through the cracks.”

In a recent phone conversation from the couple’s country home in Woodstock, N.Y., Ms. Russell talked about working under the radar; life with their newborn, Sam; and the real reason they drink so much wine. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.

You’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately. Aren’t you tired?

At least this one is done from home with smeared mascara from last night and sweaty, with no shower. We have a newborn, so we took the summer off and decided to let the craziness of no sleep happen amongst nature.

Is there any Emmy competition between the two of you? What if one wins and the other doesn’t?

Yeah. We’re breaking up. Absolutely. [Laughs] No, no, this year I feel like the win was the nomination. If anything, I was just hoping for [the showrunners] Joe [Weisberg] and Joel [Fields] that the writing would be nominated because the critics seem to be most in love with that. And it was.

You’ve spoken about how cool it was that “The Americans” stayed under the radar. But these nominations make you officially mainstream, don’t they?

God, ugh, it’s true. We’re in this sweet spot where we have this great job on this creative cable show. We’re not oversaturated in the market. We celebrated for about two minutes after the nominations, then we talked to Joe and Joel on the phone, and we all went: “Argh, this is awful. Now no one’s going to write anything good about our show. Now people aren’t going to like us.” All of us have such a healthy dose of pessimism and underdoggedness that we were very happy in that place.

It was a great season for Elizabeth, whom you’ve described as hard core in a way you love. Why?

I relish this character because as a woman, I get to not be always the sensitive one in the scene, the one who fixes the family, the one who is pining in the relationship — although one might argue that in this season I did a little bit more of that. I don’t think people realize that still for women, those are a lot of the roles. Even in great movies there are, like, two good scenes for a girl, and you’re the doting wife or the understanding girlfriend. Elizabeth demands respect. She doesn’t care if it’s wrong or what the neighbors are thinking. She’s a little bit of my fantasy, absolutely.

You have two older children. Had you forgotten what it’s like working with a newborn?

There is something very unique about being a working mother, and the demands of having a baby blindside me every time I do it. You know what’s expected of you. And yet it’s like: “Oh right, it has to be me. I don’t get to leave the house. I have to be here every two hours.” You have this baby who you give everything to and you’re so excited for, but I feel like you come back to work wanting it more because you’ve missed it.

You’ve called this a show primarily about marriage. Since you live with your onscreen husband, does it ever bleed into your real life?

We come home wearing disguises? We spice things up? I think the truthful way to answer that is working with somebody you’re sharing a life with has its ups and downs, obviously. A divide is always good.

What’s your dream ending for the show?

Well, it probably changes year to year. But I kept hoping they would consider the idea of turning, like going to the F.B.I. and becoming double agents for the safety of their family. But when I brought that up one time, Joe looked at me like I had said the most blasphemous thing in the world. He was like [hisses], “Elizabeth would never…”

Are you guys drinking a lot of wine these days now that Matthew’s “The Wine Show” is on Hulu?

I think it’s safe to say we drank a lot of wine even pre-“Wine Show.” And I have a feeling that doing that show was a thinly masked reason for him to continue drinking with his very good friend Matthew Goode and get paid for it. The two of them are so ridiculous and fun and charming, and America will love it.