by: Robert Abele
Having played both a Mouseketeer and an Aaron Spelling babe, Keri Russell, the star of the new WB drama Felicity, says she'd grown so disillusioned with the parts available for young actresses, that she almost signed on to an uninspiring project "just to make money and go on with my life." Then her agent sent her the script for Felicity. Halfway through reading it, she says, "I called my agent and said, 'Turn down that offer. Even if I'm not right for this, I understand that there is hope.'"
In Felicity, Russell plays a girl getting her first taste of independence in college. Co-creator J.J. Abrams says that when Russell walked into the audition, his "first reaction was that she was too beautiful to be somebody with problems. But she managed to be vulnerable, funny, winning and angry--and always brave.
Russell, 22, the daughter of a Nissan executive and a homemaker, grew up in Mesa, Ariz. and Denver with her brother and sister and was discovered by a Denver photographer at the age of 13. Modeling led to a two-year stint on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. At 17, Russell moved, by herself, to California, where she landed a series of teen roles, the most visible being the ingenue in Spelling's Malibu Shores. "It was a whole different beast from what I'm doing now," she says. "Makeup took an hour and a half, whereas now it takes 10 minutes."
Her new role appeals to Russell in other ways as well. "Felicity is naively honest and doesn't have any put-ons, which I love," she says. "She's smart and funny and doesn't have to be sexy."
Although Russell has yet to experience college herself, she says that door isn't closed, especially after spending time this summer at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where she was shooting the upcoming movie Mad About Mambo. "Everyone was so literate and well-read," she says. "It makes me want to shave my head and just be a student."
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