For Keri Russell, the perks of fame include celebrity play dates for her son River, 3.
Now that she’s shooting a show with Will Arnett, Russell’s son socializes with Arnett and his wife Amy Poehler’s older boy, Archie, almost 2. And yes, Russell makes sure every outing is a photo-op.
“We call the paparazzi ahead of time. We make sure they’re all looking really cute, obviously,” she says with a straight face.
In reality, Russell, 34, is disarmingly low-key, living in Brooklyn with her husband, carpenter Shane Deary, and River. And now she spends weekdays in Long Island on a nature preserve shooting the Fox series Running Wilde (Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT), which stars Arnett as a pampered playboy hankering after his childhood sweetheart, do-gooder Emmy (Russell).
For Russell, it’s a return to TV after four years as self-aware student Felicity. Shooting a comedy opposite a sharp-witted cut-up like Arnett “has me off-center a lot of times, because they move so fast. It’s nice to spend your days laughing — and it’s smart laughter, not pranks,” says Russell. “It hasn’t quite been 18-hour days. It’s comedy, it’s single camera, and it moves fast. I don’t bring (my son) a lot to the set. He’s come out a couple of times with my husband and they’ve gone to the beach.”
The joke on set? That Deary is an uncredited writer, because he feeds the scribes real-life stories about his wife. “Will keeps saying that Shane is getting writing credits because everything bad about me is coming out,” says Russell. “You know how I’m like her? I’m a nerdy know-it-all.”
Arnett begs to differ. “Keri is legitimately down-to-earth as a person, so that reads and comes across in this character,” he says. “Why did we hire Keri Russell? Because she’s awesome, that’s the answer. She’s so talented, and she gave us a lot of credibility in a way we don’t think we deserve. She’s such a good actress.”
And an all-around nice person, although Russell does have some odd habits, such as her penchant for pulling apart and then rebuilding her sandwiches, including the breakfast croissant she’s consuming this morning. “Pardon me as I’m deconstructing my thing. What am I doing? I’m being gross,” she says.
When she’s not working, Russell mostly stays local, going to the coffee shop to read or taking her son to the park. Her husband plays ball with River in their backyard, and Russell grabs what time she can to read.
“My best girlfriend gave me the whole Harry Potter series. Two months ago, I started reading them. They’re so great. My son is too young for them. And I just read Lorrie Moore’s short stories Self-Help. That was really great,” she says. “I take the local train all the way to Brooklyn so I would have that long subway ride to read.”
Adjusting to working full time has been challenging, but Russell isn’t complaining. She still sees her son, albeit a little less.
“River still wants to snuggle down in our bed. When I’m gone, working all the time, sometimes that’s the only time I see him. So it’s just so cozy,” she says, sighing.