As her hit series The Americans enters its sixth and final season, Keri Russell talks about wide-open spaces, raising adventurous kids, and more.
So Keri, how are ya?
Well, right now I’m talking to you from bed, because I have the flu, which turned into bronchitis and pneumonia. I’m just in bed going, “What the fuck.”
That sounds terrible.
Yeah, but I’m also a working mom of three kids, so when you’re not sick, you have these fantasy dream sequences every day where you’re like, “Oh my god, if I could just get sick, I could lie in bed. I just need a week of rest where I’m not working outside in the freezing New York snow, and I’m not fucking taking care of kids.” But then it actually happened, and I’m like, “Waaahhhh.” Part of me thinks I should really just be relishing this and ordering everyone around, but the other part’s like, all I want to do is drink 8,000 cups of coffee and run around and get on my bike.￼￼
Where do you usually ride?
On the weekends we have this rule that, rather than everyone sitting around and doing hours of electronics, Matthew [boyfriend and The Americans costar Matthew Rhys] and the kids and I get up at seven in the morning, even when it’s freezing out, and ride our bikes to the Brooklyn waterfront. We have the park all to ourselves, and we just sit there and have our croissants and coffees, and the kids can go crazy.
Living in New York City, do you think it’s important that they spend time outdoors?
I grew up in Arizona and Colorado and very much feel at home in those big, wild spaces. They feel so important to my well-being and are a part of who I am. So we go upstate, and we make them go on hikes.
I say “make” because the kids [River, 10; Willa, 6; and Sam, 2] are not always into it. We have a fireplace here in the city, and we made them help us stack a massive pile of wood for winter. We do these mountain activities in our Brooklyn apartment.
Is that how you survived being on Bear Grylls’ show? How did that come together in the first place?
My son, my 10-year-old, loved that show. They asked me if I’d do it, and he was like, “You have to!” Getting dropped off in the Canary Islands, no kids, camping, doing hardcore sick climbs, sweating… it felt so wild and rebellious. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. Listen, I’m not a couch potato. I pride myself on being pretty physical—I grew up dancing, and I’m athletic. But it was tough. There were moments on those climbs when I was like, “Yeah, but someone’s going to help me up now, right? ’Cause I can’t make it.” But I had to do it. The whole thing was a real adventure. And that’s something I’m endlessly searching out in my life—real adventure experiences.
Like what else?
Well, I went with the Sierra Club to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. A little plane dropped seven of us off and then disappeared. We camped out every night—we’d set up for the night and then get back on the river, and we did that until we got to the Arctic Circle. The point was to protect it forever from oil drilling—but, of course, now that’s been overturned by the current administration, which is just unbelievable.
Did you spot any cool wildlife?
Bears, arctic fox, really incredible birdlife, tons of porcupine caribou. You’re so far up that the sun never sets, so we would go for these amazing hikes at midnight. It was by far one of the favorite experiences of my life. As silly as sometimes being in my profession feels, the experiences it affords me—getting to meet these people, getting to go on these trips—have been unbelievable.
Back in 2006 you had to learn martial arts to star in Mission Impossible III. Did you feel like a badass?
I think anytime you get to jump out of burning buildings, strapped to Tom Cruise, in a movie like a Mission Impossible movie, you feel like a badass.
What are you going to do when The Americans wraps up this year?
I’m hoping for some semirestful vacation after we stop filming, something warm and good and relaxing. But I think the less planning you do, the happier you are. I find that the right thing usually finds its way to you, and I try not to worry about it too much.
The Ex-Spy Behind ‘The Americans’
But aren’t you going to miss playing a Soviet spy?
It’s one of those weird things because you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, and it’s so not gone yet. We have so much work ahead of us, so there is still this fierce uphill sprint I have ahead. What I think I’ll miss most is that it’s such a cool part for a girl. For all intents and purposes, Matthew’s character of Phillip is the much more emotional, relatable one. I’m not some nice mom or a doting, caring, thoughtful girlfriend. I’m exactly the opposite of that, which is so fun. Yet I’m also not the wicked witch, you know? I feel like I’m in this sweet spot.
Did playing that role for the last few years change your personality at all?
Elizabeth is way tougher than I am. She doesn’t take shit from anybody, and I wish I was more like that. I can be broken by my 6-year-old in a matter of minutes.