Filed in Articles & Interviews

Keri Russell tackles challenging roles

Though she’s not a big fan of the genre, Keri Russell knew she wanted a role in the spooky psychological thriller “Dark Skies.”

“I don’t watch scary movies, but it was one of those scripts I read — a little family and very ‘Poltergeist’-y — and instantly liked.

“I believed it and thought it would be fun to go see.”

Though “Dark Skies” tells the story of an other­worldly menace targeting the suburban Barretts, particularly its two young sons, Russell sees it as a family drama.

“This family is falling apart. A husband (Josh Hamilton) has lost his job; they don’t know if they’ll lose the house.

“They’re worried about money, they’re worried about divorce. They’re worried how that might affect their preteen, who is coming into sexuality, meeting friends, those kind of forces they’re not going to be able to control.

“They have all these very real family problems going on and then this outside stuff starts entering. To me that’s a metaphor for this family trying to stay together and keep control — and it’s impossible.

“The world just happens. It’s just Mom trying to be Momma Bear and protect and keep this family together.”

Russell, 36, a married mother of 5-year-old River and 15-month-old Willa, understood Momma Bear Lacy’s denial.

“No one wants to believe it. In fact there are so many signs, she thinks, ‘This is going on.’ But she says, ‘This can’t be happening. This is crazy stuff’ — and yet.

“At the end, it’s so based in the reality of protecting kids she gets really nutty crazy. As we filmed, I was thinking of what some of those parents must have felt like when Katrina was coming.

“This unmanageable thing is headed your way, you’d do anything to protect your kids, you’re totally responsible for them, but you don’t know if you’re going to be able to.

“It’s so heartbreaking and terrifying. I thought about that a lot.”

What’s more terrifying for Russell, facing possible aliens or smashing her nice-girl “Felicity” image with her new TV series “The Americans,” playing a ruthless undercover KGB agent?

“That’s cool. That’s one of the good things about taking little breaks now and then. People forget about you a little bit and you can come back and do something a little fresh.”

(“Dark Skies” opens Friday.)