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Inside Keri Russell’s unapologetically flawed title character of ‘The Diplomat’

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’

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‘The Diplomat,’ Starring Keri Russell, Lands Quick Renewal at Netflix

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.


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Keri Russell on The Diplomat: “I have to really like something to pursue it”

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”

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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

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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