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’
When Pulitzer Prize-winner Lanford Wilson’s Burn This first opened on Broadway in 1987, its four-member cast included a luminous young actress named Joan Allen — already an accomplished stage performer at the start of a film career that would bring her more acclaim — and Allen’s fellow Steppenwolf Theatre Company member John Malkovich, by then celebrated for his work in both movies and theater.
More than 30 years later in the first Broadway revival, another duo carrying both critical cachet and star power – Academy Award-nominee Adam Driver and Golden Globe-winner Keri Russell – will bring Wilson’s modern classic back to Times Square, set to begin previews March 15 and open April 16 at the Hudson Theatre.
Fresh off a six-season run in the hit FX series The Americans, and known for the titular role in Felicity, Russell will make her Broadway debut, like Allen did, as Anna, a dancer and aspiring choreographer who has just lost her roommate and creative partner, Robbie, in a mysterious boating accident.
Driver, whose numerous hit films include BlacKkKlansman and the latest Star Wars entries, along with an Emmy-nominated turn on the hit HBO series Girls, last appeared on Broadway opposite Frank Langella in a 2011 revival of Terence Rattigan’s Man and Boy. Here he is cast as Pale, Robbie’s mercurial, intense older brother, a restaurant manager. Pale’s arrival at the downtown New York loft his brother shared with Anna and Larry (played by Brandon Uranowitz) further unsettles matters, particularly for Anna and her screenwriter boyfriend, Burton (played by Tony Award-nominee David Furr). Continue reading Adam Driver and Keri Russell Share The Stage In Burn This
We live through history unaware of history, carried ever forward through transformative moments we will only recognize in hindsight. Yet there are rare occasions, in rare lives, when human beings get the chance to knowingly alter the course of human events. Consider, say, the beginning of the sixth season of The Americans, when the undercover KGB agent known as Elizabeth Jennings embarks on a rendezvous with global destiny. She’s given a toppest-of-top-secret mission, a late-stage Cold War bit of subterfuge that reaches toward the highest levels of Soviet-American relations. It’s a complicated mission, and the final season of FX’s spy drama kept sharpening its focus on Elizabeth, played with subtlety and rage and existential weariness and so much more by Keri Russell.
And now history is calling to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the voting body behind the Golden Globe awards. There is a profound wrong that must be righted, you see, a collective sin of our species that requires penance. Even though Russell spent six seasons of The Americans soul crunching Elizabeth’s morally ambiguous journey — even as she juggled wigs between espionage characters, sometimes resulting in two or three great separate performances per episode — she’s never won a major award for her work on the show.
Oh, she was recognized, sure. She won this year’s Television Critics Association award for Individual Achievement in a Drama, and critics always know best. And the Emmys nominated her thrice. In fact, this year the Emmys loaded up a few cannons full of trophies and fired a fusillade at everyone on The Americans except for anyone named “Keri Russell.” Showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg took the stage for a writing win. Russell’s costar/real-life partner Matthew Rhys landed Best Actor in a Drama. Continue reading Why The Americans’ Keri Russell deserves a Golden Globe
Ahead of the Emmys—Keri Russell’s last chance to win the award for The Americans—the actress tells Vanity Fair about her tough-as-nails KGB spy, and how her own mothering skills match up.
The Americans ended its Emmy-nominated, six-season run this past May. But Keri Russell still jokes that she isn’t sure why creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA officer, cast her as the drama’s female lead. After all, Elizabeth Jennings is an ice-cold KGB spy who has no qualms about killing countless men and bedding others for intel.
“I thought Elizabeth should be, kind of, Brigitte Nielsen—this cool, sexy, spy lady,” Russell recently told Vanity Fair, deadpanning, “I’m pretty much afraid to answer my phone. My friend Mandy, who was on Felicity with me, used to call me and, after I’d say, ‘Hello,’ she’d say, ‘Why do you sound so afraid? You know it’s me calling!’”
Russell has a point—her first acting role was on the Mickey Mouse Club. Before The Americans, Russell was best known for playing the wholesome title character on WB’s college drama Felicity. When the show premiered in 1998, The New York Times noted in its review that Russell was “immensely likable” as a character “who struggles to stand up for herself.” Fifteen years later, playing Elizabeth Jennings in the series premiere of The Americans, Russell rammed the head of her rapist through a wall during a full-contact fight that left him bloody and struggling for breath. Continue reading The Americans: Keri Russell on Finally Unraveling Elizabeth Jennings
Another Emmy hopeful this year is FX’s critical favorite The Americans, which despite consistent acclaim has had a wildly inconsistent ride at the Emmys over its six seasons. For its final turn at bat in this season, it received just four nominations, by far the lowest overall total of any of the seven nominees for Best Drama Series, yet it recently got a big boost just as Emmy voting got underway whenthe Television Critics Association’s TCA Awards recognized it as the top Drama Series (its third such accolade from TCA) and Drama Series Actress Keri Russell. It had been nominated for the Best Drama Series Emmy only once before, in 2016, and really didn’t get serious recognition from the TV Academy until it hit its fourth season. To date its only two wins are both for Margo Martindale in the supporting race.
The series has had a really odd trajectory but shouldn’t be counted out for this one last turn. Voters are aware that it’s now or never, and that could help if the favorites in the Drama Series category, past winners The Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones, cancel each other out and let an underdog like Americans prevail. It has proved to be a slow, steady riser with both its stars, Matthew Rhys and Russell, finally getting into the game with consecutive nominations in the final three seasons, after being ignored for the first three. That’s not the way Emmys usually work, to say the least, but it also could indicate that this is a show posed to further break conventional rules by having a big Emmy night on September 17 as a way to say goodbye to a great series about Russian spies living in our midst that has only grown in its timeliness and importance.
I hopped on the phone this week with Russell, who was just coming from the airport after arriving back from London where she is shooting Star Wars: Episode IX. I congratulated her on the new Emmy recognition, which she was very excited about, especially considering the show’s unusual path. “I know, it’s funny. Maybe it speaks to how much good stuff there is on TV right now, ” she said. “There must be hundreds of shows on television now, and there’s really good stuff. There’s good actors working on TV because it’s such a cool medium, especially in cable. So I don’t know. The show did have an unusual trajectory, but you know, ‘What a fun way to go out’ is all I have to say about it. It’s like, who cares about winning? It is just so fun to end like this and still be nominated and recognized. It’s ideal. It’s exactly what you’d want after six years of giving your life to this story. It’s the best way to go out.”
Continue reading Keri Russell Talks End Of ‘The Americans’ And Reuniting With J.J. Abrams In ‘Star Wars Episode IX’
No Emmy category demonstrates the wealth of material on TV these days better than lead actress in a drama. The nominees run the gamut and voters have a near-impossible choice of parsing standout performances from actresses working at the top of their game in anything but cookie-cutter roles. In a field this competitive, any one of the nominees could pull it out because voting is likely to be dispersed. But as the clock ticks down to final voting, frontrunner status goes to Elisabeth Moss and Keri Russell.
The Case for Keri Russell
Keri Russell’s work in the final season of FX’s “The Americans” was the culmination of a six-season slow burn of a tightly wound woman coming to grips with the crumbling of her world. Voters may opt to reward Russell’s body of work in the critical darling that has oddly never been a big Emmy magnet. From the start, Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings defied convention as the harder, tougher and more ruthless spouse in a sham marriage for espionage purposes that gradually evolved into love, under the most trying of circumstances. A triumph for Russell would also be a hat-tip to the talent and maturation of an actress who got her start while still in her teens.
The best drama actress nominee reveals why she can’t say anything about her role in the next ‘Star Wars’ film.
Earlier this month Keri Russell scored her third best drama actress Emmy nomination for her role as Elizabeth Jennings in FX’s The Americans.
While she’s yet to win a primetime TV trophy for her work in the Cold War drama, which aired its sixth and final season earlier this year, Russell has already had a memorable Emmys experience: She nearly missed the opening of last year’s show after her driver went to the wrong location.
“I had to jump out of the car and walk in heels to this back area, which was like a parking lot, and then there were like five minutes until the show started,” she explains. “Someone finally in a golf cart did let us in.”
While that’s an extreme example, Russell says attending the awards show is often a “high-stress situation.”
“It’s such a double-edged sword because the whole idea is so fun, like as a girl, of getting dressed up and going with my guy. But in reality, it’s not really as fun as you wish it was,” she says. “I think my goal this time would just be to have as much fun as possible. Don’t worry about being nervous. Don’t worry about how you look, which is impossible. Try to have fun and enjoy the moment.”
And she does have a suggestion on how to make it easier for herself others in attendance at the Emmys to enjoy themselves: “I wish someone on the red carpet would just pass out beer.”
Russell spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the challenges of The Americans’ final season, how her work as a tough Russian spy will affect her career going forward and why she can’t even explain how her upcoming role in Star Wars: Episode IX came about. Continue reading Emmys: Keri Russell on Nearly Missing the Opening of Last Year’s Show, “Exhaustion” of Ending ‘The Americans’
One name conspicuously absent from Disney and Lucasfilm’s unveiling today of the full cast of Star Wars: Episode IX was Keri Russell. The Americans star was confirmed earlier this month to be in talks for a role in the pic, which begins shooting next week in London.
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.