Keri Russell Biography

Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Film Actress, Television Actress(1976–)
Actress Keri Russell starred on the TV drama Felicity as the title character, a young college student who decides to follow her crush to New York City.


Keri Russell was born on March 23, 1976, in Fountain Valley, California. Her first big break came when she was selected to join The Mickey Mouse Club in 1991. Around the same time, she made her film debut in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. She tried her hand at nighttime drama with Malibu Shores in 1996. Two years later, she took one of her most memorable roles on the TV show Felicity. Russell currently stars in the hit cold war drama The Americans as an undercover soviet spy. 

Early Life

Actress Keri Russell was born on March 23, 1976, in Fountain Valley, California. Initially interested in dance, Russell has built a substantial career as an actress. Her first big break came when she was selected to join the cast of the latest revival of the classic Disney children's variety show, The Mickey Mouse Club, in 1991. In addition to Russell, the show also featured a number of other budding young performers, including Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling.

Early Acting Career

Around the same time, Russell made her film debut in the Disney comedy Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992). She left the All-New Mickey Mouse Club, or MMC as it was often called, in 1993 and appeared in a string of mostly forgettable television movies. After a few guest stints on such shows as Married . . . With Children, Russell tried her hand at nighttime drama with Aaron Spelling's Malibu Shores in 1996. She played a rich high school student named Chloe who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Unfortunately for Russell, her leading role did not last—the show was cancelled after two months on air.


Two years later, Russell found great success on Felicity as the title character, a young woman who decides to follow her crush to New York City to attend the same college. This coming-of-age drama was a hit with critics and developed a devoted following. In 1999, her earnest portrayal of a naive college student finding her way in the big city netted her a Golden Globe Award.

Through its four-year run, Felicity experienced many ups and downs with her personal and romantic life. It was not a storyline, but Russell's hair that became headline fodder at the beginning of the show's second season. Encouraged by the show's creator J.J. Abrams and others, she sheared off her trademark wavy hair, which did not go over well with fans. Some television executives even blamed her new hairdo for a slide in the ratings in fall 1999.

Despite the temporary dip in ratings, Felicity continued to stay popular and lasted for several more seasons. She had two main romantic interests over the years: Ben (Scott Speedman), her crush, and Noel (Scott Foley), her first-year dorm advisor. After the show ended in 2002, Russell moved from Los Angeles to New York City. She appeared in the war drama We Were Soldiers (2002) with Mel Gibson.

Continued On-Screen Success

In 2005, Russell played Joan Allen's daughter in the independent film The Upside of Anger with Kevin Costner, Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt and Evan Rachel Wood. She also co-starred with Skeet Ulrich in the television film The Magic of Ordinary Days that same year. The pair also appeared together in the miniseries Into the West (2005).

Returning to the big screen, Russell was reunited with J.J. Abrams for Mission Impossible III (2006), starring Tom Cruise. She also became a model for CoverGirl cosmetics that same year. But her most recent career breakthrough came from a small personal dramatic comedy, Waitress (2007).

Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, the film told the story of Jenna, a pregnant waitress stuck in a miserable marriage who channels some of her discontentment into amazing pies. She attempts to find happiness in an affair with her doctor played by Nathan Fillion. First shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie garnered a lot of critical acclaim, especially for Russell.

However, the tragic death of Shelly weighed heavily on the cast. She had been murdered in her New York City apartment before the film's release. At a question and answer session on the film at Sundance, a visibly emotional Russell said, "People had such a nice, warm reaction that I felt like I just can't believe [Shelly] isn't here to experience this. She was like a firecracker—she loved this world. I just feel like we have to talk for her, and get word out about the film," according to a report in People magazine. Around this time, Russell announced that she was expecting her first child with her fiancé Shane Deary.

Films, TV and Family

In June 2007, the now-married couple welcomed son River Russell Deary. She often discussed being a new mom as she promoted her next project, August Rush (2007), a few months later. A musical fairy tale of sorts, the film tells the story of two musicians (Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) have a brief encounter, which results in a son. The boy was given to an orphanage by her father after he told her that the baby died. The plot follows the lost child's quest to be reunited with his parents.

Russell went on to appear in such films as the fantastical comedy Bedtime Stories (2008) with Adam Sandler and Leaves of Grass (2009) with Edward Norton. In 2010, she returned to series television co-starring with Will Arnett in the short-lived sitcom Running Wilde. She and her husband welcomed their second child, daughter Willa, the following year.

In 2013, Russell began her run as Elizabeth Jennings, an undercover Soviet spy living in the United States, in The Americans. Both Russell and the show have received a warm reception from television critics. Matthew Rhys plays her husband and fellow covert operative on the show. Their on-screen connection later turned into a real-life relationship. Russell announced her plans to divorce her husband in 2013, and she and Rhys began dating the following year. The pair welcomed a baby in May 2016. 

In June 2016, Russell stars as Serena Knight opposite Matthew McConaughey in the Civil War drama, Free State of Jones, which is based on a true story.

In 2016 Russell received her first Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The Americans. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. 

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