Longtime Keri Russell fans remember her as one of the stars of The All New Mickey Mouse Club before she became a household name playing the titular star of Felicity. It was a character she became synonymous with, and for which she won a Golden Globe Award. Where some iconic ’90s actors might have faded out with the decade, Russell has been consistently working, receiving several Emmy and Golden Globe nods for her role as the sophisticated spy Elizabeth Jennings in the cult favorite show The Americans,set mostly in a Washington, D.C., suburb during the height of the Cold War and inspired by the true story that broke in 2010 of a cell of Russian agents hiding in plain sight in the United States for years. Now Russell has returned to politics, but in a different capacity, with The Diplomat, the Netflix series for which she’s been nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for her role as Kate Wyler, a slightly disheveled, inexperienced new U.S. ambassador to the U.K.
A marriage of unequal equals is at the core of Netflix’s hit series “The Diplomat,” in which whip-smart Middle East specialist Kate Wyler (Keri Russell) is thrust into a high-profile ambassadorship in the United Kingdom with her legendary diplomat husband, Hal (Rufus Sewell), in tow. “What does it mean to be second on the totem pole for so long, then become number one?” says showrunner Debora Cahn of her show’s central premise. “How do your priorities change, and your image of the work?”
For Russell, coming off an all-timer of a show about marriage and work so tensely knit together (“The Americans”), the appeal was evident: When the stakes are international-incident level, messiness in humans is especially fun to play. “Kate is really harsh to people, and she’s in this complicated relationship,” she says. “It’s likable when people have flaws, and they don’t have their life figured out.”
What inspired this show, Debora? And you to get involved, Keri?
Debora Cahn: When I worked on “Homeland,” we had expert after expert come in. This woman named Beth Jones, she was an ambassador, and had been assistant secretary of State, and she looked a bit like a librarian, or more exactly, my Aunt Ruthie. Then she starts talking about what she does in a typical day, and it’s like an action movie. I got excited about her stories.
Keri Russell: Deb has said it’s her love letter to the State Department and diplomats everywhere.
Cahn: Once there was a script, the dream was Keri Russell. Like, “Who’s a pale imitation of Keri Russell?” Somebody was like, “Why don’t we call her?” And she said yes!
Russell: I loved Debora’s writing, the discomfort on top of being smart and bossy. [Kate’s] not polished. I like how unapologetically herself she is as a character. No one likes the perfect person. They’re not fun to watch. Continue reading Inside Keri Russell’s unapologetically flawed title character of ‘The Diplomat’
Netflix is keeping The Diplomat at her post for another season.
Less than two weeks after the series debuted, the streamer has renewed The Diplomat for a second season. The political drama, starring Keri Russell as the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, premiered April 20 and was Netflix’s most watched series for that week (per the company’s internal metrics) with 57.48 million hours of viewing worldwide. The season also ended with a cliffhanger that now promises to get resolved in a second season.
Russell plays Kate Wyler, a career foreign service officer who was expecting to go to Afghanistan but ends up appointed to the U.K. With war brewing on one continent and boiling over on another, Kate works to diffuse international crises, forge strategic alliances in London, and adjust to her new place in the spotlight — all while trying to survive her marriage to fellow career diplomat and political star Hal Wyler (Rufus Sewell). David Gyasi, Ali Ahn, Rory Kinnear and Ato Essandoh also star.
“I feel like I’m a person with a fairly clear-eyed view of what America is in the world,” creator and showrunner Debora Cahn (The West Wing, Homeland) told The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast. “For me the question was can you get both [the good and bad aspects of the country] in the same show, can you get both in the same story and in the same character? We lucked out with actors that can speak in both of those vernaculars.”
Cahn executive produces the series with Russell and Janice Williams.
Keri Russell lost her voice.
The actress whispered a hoarse apology after canceling an interview last week, unable to muster much more lest she worsen her condition. She calls days later, sounding better and joking about all the time she spent promoting her new Netflix series, “The Diplomat,” while barely speaking.
It was like “The Little Mermaid,” she says. “You’re going to show up, but you’ll be silent.”
One could argue the mishap is straight out of “The Diplomat” itself, in which Russell’s title character, while competent at her work in the Foreign Service, is always a bit out of sorts. She gets into a physical scuffle outdoors just moments before meeting the president, whom she greets slightly out of breath and with dirt on her face. Later, she discovers a yogurt stain on her clothes as she gets ready to walk into the Oval Office. Losing her voice wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Listen, life happens. Continue reading For Keri Russell, the intrigue of ‘The Diplomat’ is its messy humanity
Five years after The Americans ended, Keri Russell is finally back on TV with a worthy leading role in Netflix’s politically charged The Diplomat. The actor has always been a tour de force, from her heartrending turn in the 2007 film Waitress to escaping a coked-up creature in 2023’s big screen hit Cocaine Bear. But it’s on TV where Russell has really made her mark, starting with a breakout performance on the young adult drama of the ’90s, Felicity, (who can forget “The Felicity haircut?”), where she earned acclaim for essaying a character who learns to rise above society’s expectations.
Since then it’s become Russell’s forte to play a woman who delights in breaking norms. At first glance, for instance, The Americans’ Elizabeth Jennings is a ruthless Russian spy. But Russell shepherds her into an all-timer by bringing gravitas and surprising warmth to the role. Now, Russell takes those skills to The Diplomat. Created by Debora Cahn, a producer and writer for The West Wing and Homeland, the series follows Russell’s Kate Wyler, a motivated U.S. ambassador who is unexpectedly stationed in London after an apparent terrorist attack. She’s tasked with curbing the potential for war between several countries while also navigating a complex marriage with her ego-driven political husband, Hal (Rufus Sewell). Continue reading Keri Russell on The Diplomat: “I have to really like something to pursue it”
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
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.
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!”
Elizabeth Banks’s star-studded dark comedy, Cocaine Bear, is fast approaching. Since it was first announced, the buzz for Pablo Escobear’s big-screen debut has been nonstop. Not only is the premise pretty “crazy, wacky, out-there,” as star Keri Russell describes it, but it also boasts a pretty phenomenal cast. In addition to Russell, the movie stars Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale, Matthew Rhys, Kristofer Hivju, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, and the late legacy, Ray Liotta.
Inspired by true events that took place in the mid-eighties, Cocaine Bear gives a blow-by-blow account of the unbelievable mishap… only, with a lot more blood. When a drug runner drops an outstanding amount of cocaine on the aptly-called Blood Mountain in Georgia, a 500-pound black bear ingests a brick of it before it can be picked up. Coked up, the bear goes on a rampage, leaving a trail of gore in its wake. Unlike what actually happened, if this bear is going down, he’s taking dug dealers, tourists, and cops down with him.
Before Cocaine Bear’s worldwide release in theaters on February 24, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Russell about this insane movie. During her interview, Russell shares what ultimately convinced her to do the movie, how her The Americans co-star and husband, Matthew Rhys, got involved, and what about the script appealed the most to her. She also tells us how Banks leaned into the absurdity of the movie, what it was like playing the most normal role amid the chaos, her favorite kills, and shares a little about her upcoming Apple TV+ series, Extrapolation. For all of this and more, check out the interview in the player above, or you can read the full transcript below. Continue reading ‘Cocaine Bear’: Keri Russell Spills on the Kills, and How the Film Embraces the Ridiculous Gore
Most of us will have a War On Drugs moment at some point in our lives. Over five zeitgeist-altering albums—epic in their emotional scope and sonic depth—the Philly-born band has earned a reputation for encapsulating the near-univeral sense of uneasiness and exuberance of coming of age. Formed in 2005, the band has become a cornerstone of contemporary Americana, and has collaborated with the likes of Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, and The National. For Adam Granduciel, the band’s lead guitarist and front man, shepherding The War On Drugs in its various configurations has been the singular focus of the past 15 years. “There was a beautiful aimlessness to that time,” he recalls on a recent Zoom call, “But I wouldn’t want to go back to being 23.” This shift is evident in I Don’t Live Here Anymore, the latest of the band’s five albums, out last week, which embraces a certain rock n’ roll jubilance that was scarce on previous records. The new record offers bite-sized melodies and tighter lyrics where albums like 2008’s Slave Ambient or 2010’s Lost in the Dream thrummed with expansive guitar riffs and stifled, impossible-to-encapsulate feeling. Granduciel attributes his new sound to the birth of his son, Bruce. After more than a decade of touring, fatherhood has had a clarifying effect: “I can write about the same things that I did in my 20s,” says Granduciel, “But I know what I’m singing about.” Below, the musician talks with his new friend and mega-fan, the actor Keri Russell, about his upcoming tour, the art of improvisation, and being 42. Continue reading Adam Granduciel and Keri Russell Celebrate The War On Drugs’ New Chapter