Russell with co-star JJ Feild in Austenland.
Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Classics.

Before she returns to spy work on her hit show, The Americans, KERI RUSSELL gets romantic in her new movie, Austenland


Just because Keri Russell plays a ruthless Soviet spy on FX’s The Americans doesn’t mean she can’t still get in touch with her softer side, the side that fans adored in Russell’s breakout role on Felicity. Indeed, in her new film, festival favorite Austenland — which gets a limited release this month and expands wide next month — Russell stars as a Jane Austen–obsessed singleton who vacations at a Jane Austen–themed theme park in search of love and adventure (in an early-1900s sort of way). American Way caught up with Russell, 37, to talk make-believe, Felicity fandom and getting her groove on.

American Way: On a scale of one to 10, how obsessed are you with Jane Austen?
Keri Russell: [Laughs] I’ve seen the movies, I’ve read some of the books. I’m obviously familiar with her. Really what happened was that [director] Jerusha Hess — who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite and is this young, cool, unique artist — sent me this really funny email telling me about the project. She said, “Come spend the summer with us in England,” which sounded pretty fun — to go make this wacky, sweet film in this amazing setting.

AW: Austenland is a world of make-believe, so your character has to decipher between what is real and what is fantasy, in terms of her suitors.
KR: Yes, and that’s such a true, relevant topic in any relationship. I think we all escape into fantasy in some way. Whether it’s living in the past or thinking something’s out there that’s so much better than what you have now. We all have that version of “What if?”

AW: Many fans still adore Felicity. How big a role did that show play in the rest of your life?
KR: I have such fond memories of that time, and even now, I’m working on Planet of the Apes because of the relationship I created with [Felicity creator and Apes director] Matt Reeves. A group of us are all still very close — I was just texting Scott Speedman about recommendations on what to do in New Orleans, and Mandy Foreman and I are really good friends.

AW: If Austenland were a real place, would you go?
KR: I love the idea of it: no makeup, corsets, men charming you with their English humor. I think the real-life version is called “Jamaica.” [Laughs] I mean, people go there and go crazy! They get their groove on! So Austenland is like the chaste version of Jamaica.