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Meet Keri Russell

The actress who stars as the love interest of Adam Sandler (pictured here) in ‘Bedtime Stories’ talks about her remarkable career and great love for Hawaii.

Co-starring with Adam Sandler in the new Disney film Bedtime Stories, Keri Russell plays a young woman much like herself in real life – sensible and responsible.

Actress Keri Russell, a fan of Hawaii, returns to the Islands this Christmas by way of a new movie, Bedtime Stories, in which she co-stars with Hawaii regular Adam Sandler.

“I’d love to go (to Hawaii) more often, but now that I live in New York it’s a longer flight, and especially with a 1-and-a-half-year-old, it’s a very long flight,” says Russell, who spoke to MidWeek from her hotel room in London where she was doing international press for the new movie.

“I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago and I had a great time. And my parents lived there when they were first married.

“Hawaii is one of my most favorite places on earth. I have a special affection for the North Shore of Kauai, but I do truly love it all.”

During her most recent trip here, which was with husband Shane Deary the year before they had their son River, Russell says they hiked, swam and drove.

“We hiked the Na Pali Coast on Kauai and it was really amazing,” she recalls.”My husband is really athletic, so we sort of ran, jogged it the whole way – all the way down to the secret beach and then all the way back up. I’d love to go back.

“Actually I said (to Sandler), let’s do press in Hawaii and he said OK, and then he ended up having a baby and Disney got involved, and we didn’t. But we keep joking that we should do press in Hawaii. It’s just so beautiful. It’s paradise, and the people are cool. Also, my husband surfs, so it’s nice for him.”

In fact, she gave him a new surf-board for his most recent birthday.

In Disney’s Bedtime Stories, Russell plays Jill in addition to a host of fantasy characters including Jillian Queen of Fairies, Raven Jillian and a mermaid.

The movie is an adventure comedy starring Sandler as Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true. When he tries to help his family by telling one outlandish tale after another, it’s the kids’ unexpected contributions that turn all of their lives upside down.

“I am sort of the responsible caretaker to Sandler’s irresponsible caretaker of his niece and nephew while their mom is away,” says Russell about her role in Bedtime Stories. “At first, my character thinks Skeeter is really immature and irresponsible and annoying, which he is. But after spending more time with him, she starts seeing him involved with the kids and starts to think he’s not such a bad guy. He starts to charm her.

“And working with (Sandler) was so great. He’s so fun and exactly what you’d think he’d be – normal, kind, funny. And he’s a good dad.”

According to movie director Adam Shankman (Hairspray, The Pacifier, A Walk to Remember, The Wedding Planner), Russell was chosen for the part to complement Sandler’s comedic sensibilities.

“Keri’s incredibly likable and smart,” noted Sandler.”Our characters don’t really like each other at first, so it was fun to bicker back and forth.”

Russell, 32, has starred in a number of major motion pictures (including August Rush, Mission: Impossible III, We Were Soldiers, The Girl in the Park), independent films and television shows.

Her performance in Disney’s Bedtime Stories marks a return to her Disney roots as her early acting career began with a role in the all-new Mickey Mouse Club from 1991 to 1994.

“There was a lot less dancing for me in Bedtime Stories,” says Russell about the difference between starring in a show for Disney as a child and as an adult. “But it’s still great to be working with a company that is so good at what they do. They had it down then and they have it down now.”

Russell also starred in the title role in the hit television series Felicity, and was honored with a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Series just four months after the show’s acclaimed premiere on the WB.

Recently, she received rave reviews for her starring role in the romantic comedy Waitress. Coming up, she just finished an independent film with Edward Norton called Leaves of Grass, which is in post-production.

“It’s difficult to pick a favorite project,” says Russell. “I guess Waitress had the most interesting ride. It was such a small budget, filmed in 20 days, and to be such a success at Sundance and be seen by so many people unexpectedly, I guess that was all really great.

And I felt it was a whole story, and a great character.

“(As for what’s next), I haven’t taken another job yet. My husband is a carpenter and he just finished the renovations on our house we built in Brooklyn, so I’m hoping to stay home and be a mom for a little bit.”

Russell says she didn’t really work until baby River was 9 months old, and credits her husband for sharing a lot of the responsibilities of a newborn and trusting him with those responsibilities.

“I think juggling any career and motherhood is difficult,” she says.”It’s so natural to want to do everything perfectly and almost impossible to accomplish.

“I try to deal with what is at hand moment by moment, and not get too caught up in what lies way in the future and what has already been.”

In addition to all the red-carpet movie premieres, Russell plans to spend this holiday season at home, hanging out and enjoying time with her family, with a fire in the fireplace and lots of cooking.

As for what the rest of the country does for Christmas, she and the cast of Bedtime Stories are hoping that everyone will go to see their new movie, which opened Christmas Day. That is, after you’ve opened all your presents, of course.

“I think what’s great about this film is it’s a Disney film and has everything you’d expect from a Disney film, but with the Adam Sandler factor added in, which creates such a likeable, modern, fun experience for everyone,” says Russell.

“I saw the film at a screening filled with kids and it was so great when the kids laughed at things. It made me feel so great. I’m sure it has something to do with being a new parent and thinking about my own son watching it someday and laughing, but I loved it.

“I would say my favorite scenes are the funny hopeful moments, but also finally getting to see all the special effects, because when you’re making a movie like this there is so much you really don’t see. It’s all filled in later with CGI (computer generated imagery), so getting to see the final product of that was really exciting and rewarding as well.”

Russell says her on-screen character is very much like her day-to-day self.

“I am absolutely the responsible rule follower,” she says. “I’m the middle child, the peace keeper.”

Russell was born in California, and raised in Arizona and Colorado. As a child, she moved around a lot and lists her favorite childhood memories as swimming, playing with all the neighborhood kids, sleepovers and endless summer days that turned into weeks spent in their swimsuits.

“I don’t really remember bedtime stories, per se, but I definitely read books,” she adds.”I remember all the Disney hard covers like Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, etc.

“And I love the element in our movie where Adam starts the bedtime story but allows the kids to interject with their own details. I think it’s such a clever way for parents to learn what’s going on with our kids. What they’re hoping for, scared of, excited by.

“River is still a little young for bedtime stories, but I am totally inspired by our version of Bedtime Stories in this film and plan on using it.”