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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
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.
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].
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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?