It’s a Monday morning at choice, an upscale café in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, and Keri Russell is making the counter woman’s day. Wearing a blue T-shirt, white pants, and a floppy-brimmed, “Hey, there’s a famous person under here” straw hat, she asks for a bacon-and-egg croissant and gets a fawning, borderline-creepy smile.
“She offered me turkey bacon,” Russell says between bites. “I’ve never had turkey bacon. The real deal is better.” Bland pork substitutes or not, the 32-year-old beauty clearly likes stopping by Choice for breakfast. A Brooklyn fixture, often spotted pushing a stroller or picking up Asian takeout, she and her carpenter husband, Shane Deary, recently finished restoring the nearby brownstone they share with their 18-month-old son, River. Having a master craftsman around the house is useful but not without its dangers. “When Shane was growing up, he lived in this A-frame house with a rope swing hanging from a rafter,” she explains. “The other day he said, ‘I really want a rope swing for River. Let’s put it right here!’ And I said, ‘Buuut the staircase is right here. He would fall down three flights of stairs.’”
It seems it’s safe to add the role of responsible parent to Russell’s already lengthy résumé. But try as you may, it’s hard to picture her as a mom. She was a Mickey Mouse Club member, after all, singing and dancing alongside future pop stars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, and she’ll always be Felicity, the contemplative college student with the long spiral curls and the never-ending romantic drama. In fact, many attribute the show’s success (including Russell’s 1999 Golden Globe win) to those signature locks. When she cut them offstepping out of her teenage personathe ratings suffered and WB executives called for network approval of all future hairstyle changes requested by their stars. “Who likes curly hair?” Russell mockingly wonders. “It was just a big ’fro.”
The actress slowed her pace when the show ended. She moved to New York, made her Off Broadway debut in Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig with Jeremy Piven, and eventually returned to television for a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. Her “adult” career took off when Felicity creator J.J. Abrams cast her in 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. She followed that with Waitress, a small-budget triumph in which she portrayed a pie-baking, apron-wearing diner attendant preparing to have a baby. Russell’s performance was universally praised for its veracity, except by a few skeptics who questioned whether any greasy-spoon employee could be that attractive.
Her latest filmBedtime Stories, in theaters December 25is being distributed by family-friendly Walt Disney Pictures. She stars opposite Adam Sandler. “It’s funny and it’s a movie that kids can see,” Russell says. “But it’s still got Adam’s crazy sense of humor. It’s not totally nicey-nice.”