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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Feature Interviews P to T > Keri Russell

 

Waiting Tables with 
 
Keri Russell
 
by Brad Balfour

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 4, 2007.

Maybe itís not the same kind of baking as whatís depicted in her new film Waitress, but actress Keri Russell has a bun in the oven now. So when Russell (the former Felicity star) arrived for a set of interviews to promote the movie, there was some concern that her first baby would come into the world during the interview.

Thankfully that didnít happen but many things both magical and tragic happened with the making of Waitress, an emotionally wrenching yet funny fable about a love-starved waitress (Russell) who brilliantly expresses herself through her home-made pies. Though tortured by her abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto), she finds solace through a gynecologist (Nathan Fillion) who has an affair with her after diagnosing her ďillnessĒ as a pregnancy.

Sadly, her fellow waitress and the filmís director, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered shortly after completing this film. Though the movie went on to win accolades and got signed to Fox Searchlight Ė the same company that had such a success with Little Miss Sunshine, Shelly is not here to enjoy the enthusiastic response; but at least we get to appreciate a fine film with a unique cast and vision about love, womanhood and the future.

How far along is your pregnancy?

You know, Iím at the end. Iím being kind of vague because those pesky photographers make it really fun at the very end.

Your screams were so convincing.

My screams...?

When you were giving birth in the film. Did you watch many tapes? Go to any maternity hospitals?

No. I think we were just trying to be funny and silly.

Now that youíre about to give birth in reality what method are you gonna go for? Are you doing Lamaze?


Iím going to go for get it over with. Thatís a personal question and Iím not sharing. Because itís secret [laughter].

You have this uncanny ability to be funny but at the same time, poignant. Did you have that in mind with this character?

I definitely had a sense of the character that I read on the page. But when you are doing it you have such an experience making it, and then you go see it in the movie [theater] a year later. When I was seeing it, I was surprised [by the reaction] watching it at Sundance. Itís always nice to watch it with an audience.  

Usually the first time you see it as an actor you see it with like two people Ė agents or something. And itís awful, youíre like ďOh God, what are you wearing... thatís too big.Ē And, ďOh, your face is so weird.Ē But this time because it was with an audience I was surprised how hopeful the movie was; it was kind of uplifting. I forgot about that, because the characterís experience in the movie is kind of depressing but everyone else is having real fun.

You get it when you see the movie, but I donít know if you would get it when youíre reading it on the page.

Yeah, it was totally on the page. Adrienne had very much control over this movie. Every frame was hers and she got her way on everything in this movie. Honestly it wasnít like, do what you want with this scene Ė it was like, I donít like that, stop doing that, and this is how I want you to do it. It was very much her thing.

Did Adrienne have any kind of suggestions for you as far as how to create that character and the dialogue?

I donít know if we ever talked about the specific dialogue. I think the words just kind of come out your mouth.

But your words are very characteristic.

You mean because itís Southern?

Both Southern and very deadpan.

We didnít talk about that too much. I just thought it was the beauty of the character. It was so great. Thatís what I loved about the script, that she was unhappy and wasnít afraid to hide it. She was like, oh whatever [laughter].

If you had known Jenna, your character, would you have slapped her around the head and shoulders for staying with that husband?

Of course. Anyone would. But you know people are in those types of relationships all the time in varying degrees and shades. But what I think Adrienne did with that bad guy; with that bad husband... first of all heís really funny in [being bad]. I know itís awful, but calling her porky all the time Ė I mean thatís so rude. And just at the end, you see how weak he is and how child-like and needy. Thatís how most monsters are and you see how she could kind of be stuck there. Women have a problem about not leaving people and take care of them even if they are real shitty. And thatís how it is.

You were lucky with this film. When you read a screenplay and say, this is great, but donít know who theyíre going to cast, and itís with two men Ė it could have been very difficult. Has that happened to you with a film?

Sure. Itís like dogs. Some dogs just donít get along. Like at the park, itís a perfectly nice dog but [it barks]. But with humans, you like some more than you like other people, whether you have to kiss them or not.

Luckily, the people in this movie were nice. And if not, it was only twenty days of shooting. But both men were so lovely and Nathan was so funny and good in it. We called him ďthe doctorĒ through the whole thing, never once [did we call him] Nathan. Iím like 5í4Ē. And Adrienne is maybe five feet. Nathan would come around; he was like a giant, this 6í4Ē guy. He was so sweet. And I just thought Jeremy did such a good job, he was funny and cruel and hilarious.

How did you keep yourself from laughing?

I didnít. I ruined so many takes. I was working on something else at the time and we had to shoot a lot of scenes all at once at the house and it was very late at night. I was so loopy and tired. And Jeremy had to do all this stuff like snuggle up to me, which was so gross. I just kept laughing. I was like dead puppies. Dead puppies.
I remember Adrienne saying ďDo you want to go home for Christmas? Do you want to go?Ē And I remember saying, ďI canít help it!Ē Iíd laugh a lot and I think in the movie I can see that Iím clearly laughing a lot. Itís like that thing where youíre at church... donít laugh. Donít laugh.

There is a scene in the film that is pivotal where thereís a voiceover, when youíre writing to the baby. Itís such a beautifully developed and shot scene. Was it always going to be a voiceover?

That was always a voiceover. The only part that she did say to the doctor, that I donít think made the film and was kind of a voiceover, when they are having that cozy moment when they are making pies together. Heís like, why are you here? Youíre so unhappy. And sheís like, have you ever been poor? And heís like, well Iíve been broke in college. And sheís like, broke is different than poor. Poor is like no options. I think thatís a big difference. Broke is youíre going to have money again. Poor is something different. But that is some kind of strength. Those women are kind of tough.

What insights did you have that maybe came from the movie? This is a rare chance to influence people.

For the last four movies Iíve been pregnant which has been sort of strange. Iíve been crying a lot, I donít know if itís my age or what. For this movie to be as funny as it is. Not wanting the kid, itís going to ruin her life. Itís really kind of brave, the letters to this kid. We should be lucky to know our mothersí most inner thoughts during that time. How cool would that be?

Sheís like, I look around and I think life really sucks. Iím really nervous to bring another person into this world when I know Iím so unhappy and so unsatisfied with my life. I think what I think, that itís okay to have these fleeting negative thoughts because then you see the baby and everythingís fine.

This film has feminist overtones but its point of view is primitive, like from the Ď70s. Does it upset you because modern feminism is so vital?

It doesnít upset me, itís just a part. Look, people are who they are. There are things in life... I think it all has to do with income. Itís hard when you feel stuck. Granted, I think that there are many rich people with problems too. I didnít grow up with a lot of money. I think thatís why there are so many films about women as waitresses. Itís a job that anyone can do. You donít need an education. A lot of times there are these colorful women that have these great stories trying to get thorough life. I know what you mean. Things are just the way they are; you canít fight them like that.

Do you ever watch an older actress and think, thatís the career I would like to have, or there is something about that career I want? Do you think long-term?

There are definitely people I admire. As far as actors Ė when theyíre good, theyíre real good. The people I love watching are people like Joan Allen or Kathy Bates Ė I just think everything she does is so funny, so sweet and still at the same time so heartfelt.

How did you find out about Adrienneís death? She was a part of the film community and it shocked us all. Such a sad, sad thing.

It is a sad, sad thing. I found out like everyone else. Someone called and told me. Itís still shocking. I donít believe it yet. I know itís been awhile but itís just that she was so young Ė and her family and her mom and her daughter. I donít know. Itís so unfair. I donít know what to say, I donít know if I really processed it completely.

Well, are you going to be doing any writing or what since you will be sitting home for a while once the baby is born?

I donít know... eating [laughter].

How much time are you going to take off after you have the baby?

A little bit, but at the same token I just bought a house so Iím available for work.

Where do you live now?

I live in New York. And Iíve never waitressed.

Are you an expert pie-maker now?

Expert? No. God, no. Cheryl and I keep laughing because we get [these] questions; they want to make everything pie-themed. No, Iím not an expert.

Do you do a lot of cooking at home?

Not really. As an actor you spend so much time in a hotel room. And then you move to New York where the kitchens arenít exactly farmhouse kitchens. So not necessarily, but I can get by.

And your favorite pie?

Key Lime.

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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 4, 2007.

Photo Credit:
#1 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#3 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#4 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#5 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#6 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.
#7 © 2007 Alan Markfield.  Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 4, 2007.

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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 4, 2007.