Filed in Articles & Interviews TV Show

Keri Russell Is the Ultimate Diplomat in Her New Netflix Show

Keri Russell has made a career of playing the kinds of heroines who lodge themselves in the television-viewing public’s consciousness with single-name resonance: Felicity (from, you know, Felicity), Elizabeth (from The Americans), and now Kate from The Diplomat. On this new Netflix show, which premieres on April 20, Russell plays Kate Wyler, a civil servant who has conducted her diplomatic career largely offstage while her husband, Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell), a foreign policy wonk with front-of-house energy and Lawrence of Arabia hair, occupied center stage. They are moving into a new phase of their careers and their relationship: Kate is headed to Afghanistan, or so she thinks; the couple is not so amicably headed for divorce. Both those plans are upended, however, when Kate is told she will, confoundingly, be given the plum (but too soft, for her tastes) post of London; the divorce, too, is put tentatively on hold.

The role is a rich and juicy one for Russell, whose spine of steel—the backbone of so many episodes of The Americans is deployed here with more diplomatic grace. Kate is tough but also human, adept at internalizing a complex geopolitical issue, but also personally annoyed that she has to devote her time to figuring out the right attire to wear to the negotiating table. She’s extremely competent and also subsisting mainly on yogurt that she eats standing up. The show reads something like a cross between The West Wing and Homeland (its showrunner, Debora Cahn, worked on both), with fast-paced banter laced with D.C. jargon and the looming backdrop of current events foregrounding the interpersonal struggles. Continue reading Keri Russell Is the Ultimate Diplomat in Her New Netflix Show

Filed in Articles & Interviews TV Show

In ‘The Diplomat,’ Keri Russell Shows Her Good Side

On a recent Thursday afternoon, the actress Keri Russell paused in a corner of Brooklyn Bridge Park to admire a starling.

It was technically spring, though the weather had other ideas, and Russell, in subdued plumage, braved the wind in chunky boots and a black puffer jacket. Her hair was tousled. Liner ringed each eye, possibly a souvenir from the previous night’s too many margaritas with friends. She didn’t look much like a woman who devoted years of her life to undermining the American democratic project. Or like a woman now charged with safeguarding it.

But Russell has been both of those women (and a lot of other women besides). At this point in her career, she is probably best known for her six seasons on the FX drama “The Americans” as Elizabeth Jennings, a Soviet sleeper agent with an ambitious collection of ruses and wigs who earned Russell three Emmy nominations. Now Russell has taken on an opposing role: In the “The Diplomat,” a Netflix series debuting on Thursday, she stars as Kate Wyler, a savvy U.S. civil servant tasked with upholding America’s reputation abroad.

A veteran ambassador, Kate is about to take a post in Kabul when an international incident shunts her and her husband, Hal (Rufus Sewell), to London. An English manor house is not a war zone, but Kate behaves otherwise. Armored in punishing heels and sleek sheath dresses, she treats even polite conversation as battlefield maneuvers. But in a departure from “The Americans,” Kate’s work is almost entirely aboveboard. She wears no wigs.

Continue reading In ‘The Diplomat,’ Keri Russell Shows Her Good Side

Filed in Uncategorized

Keri Russell talks new buzzy political drama ‘The Diplomat’

Golden Globe winner Keri Russell talks about her new Netflix series “The Diplomat” which takes viewers into the high-stakes world of international diplomacy. Russell also discusses “Cocaine Bear,” her daughter’s reaction to “Felicity” and reveals her favorite of the many disguises Matthew Rhys wore in “The Americans.”

Filed in Articles & Interviews TV Show

In The Diplomat, Keri Russell Lets Loose—And Maybe Saves the World

Keri Russell was not ready for more TV. After making six highly acclaimed and intensive seasons of FX’s The Americans, in which she starred as the enigmatic Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings, she came out of the experience ready for a life of shorter-term—and perhaps less emotionally draining—work commitments. “I definitely wasn’t looking to do another series,” she says. When the script for the London-set The Diplomat by Debora Cahn came her way, Russell was also planning on moving to a new home across the country with her family. So shooting in Europe for seven months seemed completely unfeasible, even beyond the shift in focus. And yet here Russell sits, in a Zoom window right beside Cahn’s, with the first season of The Diplomat completed and set for an April 20 release on Netflix. (Watch an exclusive clip below.)

“I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Russell concedes. “So I was like, This is impossible—and I’m going to do it.”

Following the B movie phenomenon that is Cocaine Bear, The Diplomat continues a theme for Russell in 2023: fun. That may sound unlikely given that the drama series hails from Cahn, a veteran of high-stakes political TV like The West Wing and Homeland. Its premise sounds similarly weighty: An Afghanistan-bound diplomat (Russell) is instead named the unexpected new US ambassador to the United Kingdom, where she’s tasked with averting international crises—brewing war on one continent, boiling conflict on another—in an unfamiliar milieu. But The Diplomat is hardly stodgy. The show has as much in common with Veep as it does Homeland in its focus on the way people actually operate in spaces of such power and impact—behavior that is thoroughly, brutally human.

As Cahn describes her show’s philosophy: “The world might end on Tuesday because of a decision that they do or don’t make, but that doesn’t mean they remember the name of the person they’re talking to, and that doesn’t mean that they didn’t forget to take the tag off of their pants.” She came up with the idea for The Diplomat during her tenure as a writer-producer on Homeland. A range of experts came in to tell their stories, including ambassadors. “They’re quiet and unassuming. Like, this woman who looks like my Aunt Ruthie—she was in the middle of a crisis involving nuclear waste and a truck driving off an icy Siberian road and bombs dropping,” she says. “Nobody knows what these people do. It’s such front-lines-y kind of activity, and nobody ever knows about it.”

Enter Russell’s Kate Wyler, a brilliant crisis manager without much affection for the spotlight, as evidenced by her brusque demeanor, plain attire, and political skills behind the scenes. Russell’s performance is vivacious and dynamic—a true actorly joy flows into her character’s neuroses and frustrations, to say nothing of her faculty with wry dialogue, in a way that feels fresh. “I was like, Keri’s an incredibly gifted actress, she can play this role—but I didn’t know that she was this role,” Cahn says. “I was like, Kate is a little bit neurotic and kind of itchy, and Keri Russell is graceful and statuesque. But it turns out she’s that.”

With this being Russell’s first interview about the project, that link between performer and role effortlessly reveals itself. “Please let someone else wear the pretty dress and the makeup—it’s always more fun to be the normal person,” Russell tells me, describing what enticed her to take on The Diplomat—at which point I remind her that a key story line in the show’s pilot revolves around Kate’s new handlers trying to get her to wear, yes, a pretty dress that she does not want to wear. (“That’s true!” Russell says with a laugh.) The series’ fish-out-of-water concept finds Kate especially thrown off by the customs and manners of life inside centuries-old mansions. Russell describes filming inside them with a similar befuddlement: “It was a good time, but these fancy big houses where there’s a million people working in them and just opening doors—it makes me sweat just thinking about it,” she says. “All the people staring at you when you have to walk in!”

Continue reading In The Diplomat, Keri Russell Lets Loose—And Maybe Saves the World