The reason her name wasn’t on the cast list: she hadn’t signed her deal by the time the studio wanted the news to go out today via StarWars.com. Deadline hears though that she has now officially inked for the unknown role, and that she will be in the finale of the Skywalker Saga movies that has a December 20, 2019 release date.
The casting reunites Russell and Star Wars director and co-writer J.J. Abrams, who created her series Felicity, which ran from 1998-2002. Russell and Abrams also worked together on Mission: Impossible III. Abrams co-wrote the Episode IX script with Chris Terrio.
Russell recently wrapped on the sixth and final season of FX’s Americans.
The main cast of the Episode IX now: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Billie Lourd, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Naomi Ackie and Richard E. Grant, with Carrie Fisher appearing as Leia Organa via unused footage from The Force Awakens.
On June 10, 2018, Rob Benedict joined fellow former Felicity stars Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, Scott Foley, Greg Grunberg, Amy Jo Johnson, Tangi Miller, Amanda Foreman, Ian Gomez and writer/director Lawrence Trilling for a panel celebrating the show’s 20th anniversary at the ATX Festival in Austin, Texas.
Co-showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg even landed a critical writing nod, but that was it. Noah Emmerich, Margo Martindale, Holly Taylor, director Chris Long, and so many others went home empty-handed, as “The Americans” snagged just four nominations in 2018; that’s the same as it pulled in a year ago, when it missed out on Outstanding Drama Series, and one nod below its highest ever (five in 2016).
Many prognosticators were predicting more. In its final year, coming off rave reviews and a buzzy series finale, some thought “The Americans” could benefit from the final season bump (and years of snubs) to see a jump from four or five nominations to nine or 10. That didn’t happen, and worse still, it has the lowest number of nominations of the series up for Best Drama: “Game of Thrones” (22), “Westworld” (21), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (20), “The Crown” (13), “Stranger Things” (12), “This Is Us” (8), “The Americans”… (4).
But fear not, comrades. Best Drama Series may be out of reach — maybe — but there’s still hope for the most important Emmy race of 2018: Keri Russell vs. the world. Ever since “The Americans” earned its first major nominations, the show has pacing with another perennial-snubee-turned-winner: “Friday Night Lights.” So if that precedent holds up, Keri Russell is walking away with the gold… and the show would take home one more trophy, too.
With recognition in Drama Series, writing, and acting categories, “The Americans” hasn’t been ignored by the TV Academy. They may still feel obligated to reward the series after years of snubs, and Keri Russell seems like the choice — from outsiders and insiders — if only one person is going to walk away with a trophy.
The only chink in the armor is an issue that shouldn’t be an issue — likability; specifically, the character’s likability. Kyle Chandler played a beloved father, husband, and mentor, while Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings has seen a wave of backlash over the years because of a few cold-blooded choices. Even Russell has said in the past that Elizabeth could be a tough character to love, so some voters may prefer to cast votes for an unabashed feminist icon (such as Elisabeth Moss’ role in “The Handmaid’s Tale”).
Still, Moss already got her long-awaited Emmy last year. Now it’s time to give the other neglected, out-of-this-world-great actress her due. And if Russell wins, that ups the odds for “The Americans” in one more category, too: In “Friday Night Lights’” final year, not only did Kyle Chandler win, but so did series showrunner Jason Katims. So as long as voters follow along with the “Friday Night Lights” precedent, Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg should conquer Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and join Russell in the winners’ circle.
Have hope, comrades. The war may be lost, but battles can be won.
In other words, Keri Russell is having a moment, and it’s been a long time coming.
It’s tempting to compare her career to Laura Dern’s, whose casting in 2017’s major HBO hit Big Little Lies propelled her to renewed stardom, dubbed the “Dern-aissance.” Except unlike Laura Dern, who kind of faded from Hollywood for several years before reappearing in 2011’s highly underrated HBO series Enlightened, Russell never really went anywhere. It’s just that we never noticed her.
Russell has always been kind of an underdog. Though she started acting at 15, Russell appearing (alongside Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Britney Spears) for a couple of seasons of The Mickey Mouse Club, the actress rose to fame playing Felicity Porter on J.J. Abrams’ and Matt Reeves WB series Felicity, a role for which she won a Golden Globe in 1999. (But her real headlines moment came when she cut her long hair short in the show’s second season.)
Felicity ran from 1998 to 2002, after which Russell continued to work. She teamed up with Abrams once more as Lindsey Farris in Mission Impossible III, guest-starred on Scrubs, and appeared on her own reality series, The Keri Kronicles, on MySpace.
She stuck around (in feature films like August Rush, and Waitress), but mostly flew under the radar — until The Americans, which premiered in January 2013. As Elizabeth Jennings, a Soviet agent posing as a suburban mom in 1980s Washington DC, Russell finally got her opportunity to shine, alongside co-star turned husband Matthew Rhys. People started realizing that Felicity could really act. And I mean really. The Americans required a chameleon star, who, like her character, could shed her own skin at will, disappearing into the various nuances and complexities of the role. That could range from having to make a supremely ridiculous wig look credible, to carrying moments relying entirely on eye contact, with little to no dialogue. Russell’s screen presence is magnetic from the very first scene, which shows her seducing a government official in a bar to gain access to information he has about a Soviet defector. She could be sultry and seductive, coldly furious, anxious, or passionate — often all at once. Her throbbing angry forehead vein alone deserves an Emmy nomination.
Even her off-screen promotion of the show was noteworthy, giving off major star charisma. Russell gives a great interview, and is as willing to speculate about Putin’s potential involvement in Philip and Elizabeth’s mission as she is to dish about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
And yet still, it took a while for audiences to catch on. For years, The Americans was hailed as the best show on TV that nobody actually watched, snubbed for awards and healthy audience numbers.
But not anymore! Back in May, the nearly perfect series was capped off by a beautiful and moving finale, which means the show can live on undisturbed in the streaming heaven reserved for shows that didn’t crash and burn their landing (*cough* Dexter). Some have predicted it’ll be the next Sopranos, the kind of shows that generations discover and continue to watch long after it’s been off the air. (I’ll take this as an opportunity to reveal my secret identity as a recruiter for young Americans-fans in training. Take that, Paige Jennings!)
Revolutions usually take place when things have reached their lowest possible point, and I’m pretty sure the bleak prospect of a Russell-less future qualifies. Clearly, Hollywood is starting to catch on. Grab your scythes and hammers, comrades. Welcome to the Russell-ution!
P.S. Putting this out there into the universe: Big Little Lies season 3, with Keri as Nicole Kidman’s sister.
Nominations for the 2018 Emmy Awards were announced Thursday morning and we have such a great news. Keri, Matthew and The Americans were nominated.
The 70th annual Primetime Emmys are set to air on NBC on Sunday, Sept. 17 from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost and Michael Che are set to host.
Days after landing a role in Star Wars: Episode IX, the actress is now in negotiations to team with Guillermo del Toro for Antlers, a supernatural horror thriller set up at Fox Searchlight.
Del Toro is producing the project with David Goyer and Miles Dale, who produced del Toro’s Oscar-winning The Shape of Water. Scott Cooper, who helmed Crazy Heart and Black Mass, is directing.
If a deal is made, Russell will star as a teacher who takes an interest in a mysterious and withdrawn student. Only too late does she discover that the boy is harboring a deadly secret that is key to their town’s survival.
Nick Antosca and Henry Chaisson wrote the script.
Fox Searchlight is eyeing a fall shoot in Vancouver, giving Russell ample time to shoot her Star Wars role in the summer.
The actress starred for six seasons on FX’s 1980s-set The Americans, with the drama centering on a husband and wife who are Russian sleeper agents in the U.S. The role earned her two Emmy nominations.
Russell is repped by WME, Burstein Company and Sloane Offer.
Sources tell Variety that the “Felicity” alum is in early talks to join J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode IX,” which Abrams is writing and directing. Russell and Abrams last collaborated on 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III.”
The role calls for action-heavy fight scenes. Russell has shown her ability to perform tough stunts in projects like FX’s “The Americans,” “Mission: Impossible,” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
Abrams and Lucasfilm execs met with several actresses for the role in the past two months and settled on Russell right before the Fourth of July holiday. Abrams will likely cast two more actors by the time the film begins production at the end of the month. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver are all expected to return.
Abrams helmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and was asked to come back to direct this latest installment after Colin Trevorrow exited following creative differences. Abrams filled the role last fall and has spent most of that time working on the script with Chris Terrio.
It’s unknown at this time whether Russell will be on the side of the rebels or the evil empire.
Russell recently wrapped the final season of “The Americans.” She is repped by WME.
– Magazine Scans Off Camera Issue 152 2018