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Keri Russell On Why Strict Diets Are Just Not Her Style—and Amen to That

Keri Russell is someone you can have a beer with. (She’ll take a Peroni, thanks.) Someone who, even after a good 15 years in Brooklyn, still exudes the sunny, girl-next-door ease of her roots out West, by way of Arizona and Colorado. The “uniform” she’s wearing today at an elegantly hip Italian restaurant she frequents is what she describes as “Sam Shepard from The Right Stuff”: a buttery leather bomber from Celine, rolled-up Gap khakis —“the ones I wore on an adventure trip with Bear Grylls” (Look it up)—Rag & Bone T-shirt (she’s friends with the designer; their kids go to school together), and leopard-print kitten heel Aquazzura booties.

It was actually Matthew Rhys, her partner of six years and former costar on The Americans, who coined the look, and it stuck. “We laughed really hard about it, but I realized that’s my true fashion—like tough guys,” she smiles. “Growing up, I didn’t play with Barbies or dolls. I wanted the adventures.” It wouldn’t be too long before her Hollywood joy ride would begin, as a 20-year-old Keri, onetime Mouseketeer, was cast as the lead in the hit cult drama series Felicity. The real magic is how she managed to do celebrity on her terms in the years that followed. “After Felicity, I didn’t want to act anymore because I was so tired, and I didn’t want to be more famous than I was,” she says. Since then, Keri has alternately pumped the brakes and hit the accelerator on a thriving movie and TV career while having three kids, 12-year-old son River and 8-year-old daughter Willa with former husband Shane Deary, and 3-year old Sam, her son with Rhys.

These days, she trades off doing film shoots with Rhys so they can be “on duty” for the kids. Keri, 43, is home at the moment, and she’s got brownies to bake (from scratch!) this afternoon for Willa to take with her to school tomorrow.

“They say you can have everything—just not all at once. I think that’s really true. There are times when you’re living for your career and times when you get to make cakes.”

So what’s a girl like Keri, who jumps at the word boo, doing in a horror film like Antlers? Well, who better to relate to that audience? “I’m a total scaredy-cat, but I think the reason why it’s OK for me to do scary movies is because I’m scared all the time,” she says. “I’ll be in the bathroom getting ready, and Matthew will be coming down the hall and he’ll warn me, ‘I’m about to come in.’ And I’ll still scream!” In this film, a lushly shot, creepy mix of supernatural evil and blood and guts premiering this month, Keri plays a quietly badass teacher with her own broken past. And then, of course, there’s a monster.

What’s undeniable is that Keri knows how to keep her cool in navigating the alternate universes of Hollywood and home. Her relaxed approach to food, fitness, fashion, and, well, life may be our new wellness goal.

On Her Workout Anti-Routine
“I’m definitely a physical person. I’m happiest when I work out. You need that hit—where everything is moving and pumping and you instantly feel positive. I feel my absolute best—my sexiest—after a good workout. Right now, that’s usually a tough bike ride. Or I’ll dance around in my room to loud music and do moves I remember from a pregnancy video I had. But if I have a good chunk of time, I’ll go to a gym and do exercises using a band that a trainer taught me 20 years ago.”

. . . And Her Beauty Anti-Routine
“I have dry skin, so I use super-creamy Eve Lom Cleanser (Buy It, $80, Two years ago, my makeup artist—who gets me ready for the fancy things—said, ‘You know, you should do this facial before an awards show.’ So I went to the Joanna Vargas spa, and after I did it I was like, ‘Oh, this is what they’ve all been doing.’ You know what really works, actually, which I just was telling my girlfriends about? That weird mechanwical [microcurrent] device called the NuFace. I do notice a difference. Beyond that, I try to wash my face at night.”

On Doing Fashion Her Way, Not the Runway
“I go for a certain style that’s handsome tailoring, masculine taste. Especially with red-carpet events, I don’t want to be part of the competition. I don’t like to be the main attraction—I just want to feel good. But the stress of those events and the way you are picked apart, the way there are people who look right and who look wrong, is hard. Matthew and I watched some power poses at the Met Gala one time. It was incredible. We were next, and Matthew turned to me and said, ‘I am so frightened right now.’ I was like, ‘You should be. This is just terrifying.’ There are certain people who can do it, and I marvel at them. But it’s just not me.”

On Keep-It-Real Eating
“I’m generally a pretty healthy eater. I mean, I eat a lot. But I have smaller portions throughout the day. Especially when I’m shooting, I feel like I have to keep eating or I run out of energy. At the beginning of The Americans, I ate so many doughnuts. Matthew said to me, ‘Do you remember how many doughnuts you used to eat?’ I’m like, ‘Well, I was trying to stay awake.’ (These foods will give you a much-needed pick-me-up.)

Otherwise, the only rule I live by every day is having hot water and lemon before bed and when I wake up. I used to cook a lot more when I had just one kid—good stuff like homemade scones and all these big, fun meals. Now, on Sundays, I usually do a roast chicken and vegetables, and maybe a guilty pleasure like Yorkshire pudding. (Related: Why Treating Yourself Is the #1 Secret to a Healthy Diet)

When I see those people who look so great for their age, I’m like, ‘Oh, I do want that. I do want to look like that at 60.’ I’m just not ready to stick to a strict regimen. I still want to have fun a little longer. I’ll still have the pasta Bolognese.”

On a Few of Her Favorite Things
“Comfort for me is a bike ride. It can be simple: When I’m the one in the morning who gets Matthew and me coffee, alone on my bike. I don’t care how cold it is. It could be 23 degrees outside. I need those little bits of time to myself. And time to see girlfriends. If you have that, if you have good sleep, if you have good sex—all those things just make you feel great.”