The battle between the Jedi and the Sith has been a constant in the Skywalker saga, but there’s a vital third class of heroes and villains that populate the galaxy: the smugglers, scrappers, bounty hunters, and scoundrels who make a living on the edges of a war. The life of a rogue is tough in the Star Wars universe, and the masked Zorri Bliss (Keri Russell)—revealed exclusively in Annie Leibovitz’s new portfolio from the set of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—is no exception.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Russell is reunited with J.J. Abrams—the man who made her a household name when he first cast her as a sentimental college undergrad in the TV show Felicity 20 years ago. Abrams has already transformed Russell’s career once, when he broke apart her innocent image with a short but memorable fight sequence in 2006’s Mission Impossible III. “When J.J. calls so unexpectedly,” Russell said last summer, “cool things happen.”
Many years and six seasons of the Emmy-winning spy drama The Americans later and Russell is not only adept at action, she’s well practiced in the art of keeping secrets. That would be why, until now, the only thing she let slip about her Star Wars character was “I do have the coolest costume. I will say that.”
She’s not wrong. The brass detailing and deep aubergine of Zorri Bliss’s suit invoke the glamour of Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo, while the familiar silhouette calls to mind the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Even more hardcore Star Wars fans will notice a similarity between Russell’s costume and the one worn by the short-lived female bounty hunter Zam Wesell in Attack of the Clones.
Her mask helps Bliss disguise both her identity and motives—a useful feature for anyone who might want to blend in at a shady cantina or the Thieves’ Quarter of Kijimi. Ever since the balance of power in the galaxy was thrown off by the invasion of the First Order and the destruction of the New Republic, it has become very profitable for scoundrels to avoid picking a side during the escalating war between Leia’s Resistance and Kylo Ren’s forces. If Benicio Del Toro’s The Last Jedi character taught us anything, it’s not to trust a rogue, but we’ll have to see whether Zorri Bliss chooses the dark side, the light, or, most likely, herself when The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters.
After the sixth and final season of the Emmy-winning spy series The Americans wrapped last year, Keri Russell originally planned to take a break and spend more time with her three children at home in Brooklyn. Instead, she’s making her Broadway debut in the revival of Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson’s drama Burn This—one of the hottest tickets in New York this spring.
“I couldn’t pass up this opportunity and I feel like it’s the story’s passion that really resonated with me,” Russell said of the story, set in New York City in 1987, about an unlikely and tempestuous relationship between a dancer (Russell) and her former partner’s brother (Adam Driver). “These people are at a time in their life before they have to deal with house payments, kids, and responsibility. They are so passionate about their art and passionate about wanting everything in their life to be the best it can be. They want things to matter. They want their life to feel big and important and creative. I related to this.”
Speaking after her opening-night performance, which received a standing ovation, Russell continued, “In the midst of all the dark things that’s going on in the world and how depressing and hard it is right now politically, a story about passion, lust, desire, love, and all the good stuff you feel when you are young seemed like a nice change and a great escape.”
Russell and Driver will share the screen—or, at least, some part of the galaxy—in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker later this year, but it was Russell’s longtime partner (and Americans co-star), Matthew Rhys, who made the initial connection between them: he and Driver starred together in the off-Broadway play Look Back in Anger in 2012. “Matthew has been enormously helpful throughout this adventure,” said Russell. “He’s supportive and he’s my best critic. He’s seen the show and given me notes.”
In the seven years since his last appearance on Broadway, Driver has been busy working with seemingly every major film director and earning an Oscar nomination for BlacKkKlansman, but Burn This brings him back to his roots in a major way. He first played the role of Pale opposite his girlfriend—now his wife, actress Joanne Tucker—when they were both students at Juilliard. Continue reading Keri Russell Makes a “Nerve-Wracking” Broadway Debut
Adam Driver strides into a Brooklyn warehouse wearing black boots, jeans, and a zip-up sweatshirt. Toweringly tall—he’s the rare movie star who appears taller in person—he extends his hand and applies a firm squeeze. He carries himself with confidence, but also a certain caution. (At the briefest mention of Star Wars, he recoils almost reflexively, insisting he can reveal nothing about the plot of the upcoming movie, his third in the franchise.) It’s a stance befitting an actor who has become one of the biggest stars in the world within a few short years, catapulted by his formidable charisma and ambition.
Driver’s magnetic intensity is the primary calling card for one of the most anticipated productions of the spring Broadway season, the Hudson Theater’s revival of Lanford Wilson’s drama Burn This, in which he will perform the part of Pale, the tempestuous restaurant manager at the center of the play. This is a coming home of sorts, not just because Driver first gained some acclaim in the New York theater world, but also because this 1987 work represents important unfinished business for the 35-year-old. During his final year at Juilliard, Driver first played Pale—appearing opposite his then girlfriend, the actress Joanne Tucker, now his wife—in what was the Juilliard equivalent of a senior thesis. It was unusual for a student to take on such a difficult and challenging role, but Driver had so impressed the school’s drama director that an exception was made.
And yet, when Driver is asked about that performance, he shakes his head bashfully. “I am embarrassed at all the things I didn’t understand,” he says. He is referring to the actions of his character, tasks as mundane as making a pot of tea: “I didn’t drink tea growing up in Indiana.” But the work involves nuance that would be hard for any actor in his early 20s to fully absorb, and he’s aware of that too. “You live life a little, and there’s just dynamics you don’t understand until you have a bit more experience.”
Those dynamics unfold in the unlikely romance between Pale and a sensitive modern dancer named Anna, played in this production by Keri Russell. The two are brought together when Pale’s brother, Robbie, a gay dancer who is closeted to his family and close to Anna, dies in a boating accident. Pale barges into Anna’s loft following the funeral, upending her passionless relationship with a screenwriter. Continue reading In Burn This, Adam Driver and Keri Russell Find Love in a Hopeless Place
Keri Russell was terrified to do a play on Broadway. But that was exactly why she wanted to do it. After wrapping six seasons playing undercover Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings on FX’s The Americans, she was looking for a new challenge.
“It’s such a daunting job to take on, and it’s certainly the furthest thing from my comfort zone, which I guess was sort of what was appealing,” says Russell, who stars opposite Adam Driver in Burn This, which opens on Tuesday. “I thought it was just this incredible adventure that I couldn’t pass up, and it has absolutely proven to be that. It’s been so scary, and just getting over having to do this in front of people night after night, that has been a huge exercise for me. It’s not where I live, I tend to be more shy, more of an introvert, so I feel like we’re literally almost finished with previews and I am just now not going to throw up before I go on.”
The last time Russell was onstage was in the off-Broadway premiere of Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig in 2004, and she’s finding the Broadway stage a bigger undertaking.
In Burn This, Russell plays Anna, a dancer whose life is upended when her close friend and dance partner dies in a boating accident and his brother Pale (Driver) shows up at her apartment one night. Lanford Wilson’s play had its Broadway premiere in 1987 starring John Malkovich and Joan Allen. It was revived off-Broadway in 2002 with Edward Norton and Catherine Keener, but this production, directed by Michael Mayer, marks the work’s first Broadway revival. Continue reading Keri Russell on Conquering Her Broadway Nerves for ‘Burn This’
Nine floors above Times Square, Adam Driver hurtled through a door — or what would become a door once the set was fully built — thundering about the traffic, the parking, the trash. “This street’s dying of crotch rot,” he bellowed.
“Do I know you?” Keri Russell asked coolly.
It was the second week of rehearsals for Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” a combustible 1987 play about the unlikely romance between Anna (Ms. Russell), a serious-minded choreographer, and Pale (Mr. Driver), a hothead restaurant manager. Anna has a gentlemanly boyfriend, Burton. Pale has a wife, two kids and a line of cocaine where his superego should be. If you tried to match them on Tinder, your phone might explode. Still, anguish and pheromones jolt them into love or lust or something more relentless.
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