Keri Russell made a name for herself as contemplative, impulsive college student Felicity Porter on WB’s Felicity, which aired from 1998 to 2002. And this holiday, she’s Adam Sandler’s love interest in the family flick Bedtime Stories, about a handyman whose tall tales magically start to come true.
“This movie was going along for the ride with Adam and trying not to laugh,” says Russell, 32. “You’re trying to hang on and ride the wave. I like being around guys. Guys are so simple. They sit around, tell funny stories. They’re usually not talking (expletive) about people. It was a total guys set, and I didn’t mind being the only girl, and I want to do another movie with Sandler.”
Here’s what else is going on with the sweetly self-deprecating actress, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Shane Deary, a carpenter, and their son, River, 1.
• The childhood tale that resonated the most with her isn’t what you’d expect. “I don’t remember stories. Is that crazy? I remember books. I would say The Jungle Book, or Sleeping Beauty. I can tell you that even though this person is not scary, I was petrified of Yoda — by the way, the nicest character. Halloween, when I was in kindergarten, my best girlfriend’s dad came with a full costume and one of those real heads and I was bawling my eyes out. I would have nightmares. I was terrified of Yoda and it’s a joke with my family.”
• Other laughing matters? Working with Sandler, who handpicked her to star in his film and kept Russell relaxed and entertained on set. “I was really pregnant when he called to ask me to do it. And then there was the writers’ strike, so they weren’t moving forward with anything. His wife saw Waitress and she said she liked it and that (I) should be in one of his movies,” she says. “He called me and said, ‘Hey, I have a kid and I hear you’re having a kid and I want to make a movie my kid can see and you should do it with me.’ I’m not kidding. And I said OK. It seemed so fun, because I’d just done two movies where I had to be sad. How much fun would it be to be laughing and silly with Adam Sandler?”
• Equally fun? Eventually showing the movie to her son, who’s not quite old enough yet to sit through it. Unlike most actresses, she doesn’t have a live-in nanny and juggles parenting and work.
“I’m excited to show the movie to him. He’d be intrigued by part of it, but he’s too little. He doesn’t really sit still enough. He can’t sit on a plane anymore. He’s not a little baby. I can’t schlep him over on these six-hour flights for three days,” says Russell. “It gets harder. We’re still figuring it out. Thankfully I have a husband who’s really involved and great. We finally had to hire a babysitter. She helps me when I’m working. Shane will take days off if I’m really working hard, and when I’m home, I’m really home.”
• Home, of course, is Russell’s great point of pride. Deary renovated it, and his wife can’t stop bragging about his DIY dexterity. “It’s so beautiful. He’s such a stud. It’s done. There are a few lights that aren’t in place, and a few chairs, but it’s so beautiful. And he did it. ”