She makes going from the small screen to the silver screen seem easy as pie. The past couple of years, she's been laying relatively low, taking smaller films and a leading role on Fox's short-lived Running Wilde, all while raising her two kids. This year, Russell has slowly inched her way back into the spotlight with a cameo on Arrested Development, new FX series The Americans, and this summer's Austenland, where she plays a star-crossed, Jane Austen-obsessed romantic searching for love at a Jane Austen theme park. Boring? Hardly. This is one actress whose insight on everything from romance to her current obsessions is fascinating.
How did you prepare for this role? Did you go back and read any Jane Austen books?
“I did go back and revisit some of the ones I had at home to refresh my memory. And I did re-watch parts of the BBC Pride and Prejudice, just to remember."
Can you tell us about the costumes? What's a corset like?
“Well, wearing a corset while being pregnant was interesting — especially with petticoats, lace-up boots, and tights, and then there's the hairdos that have braids and buns. It's no wonder you had maid servants! You could never do it on your own. It takes hours to get ready. There’s such a straight-back dignity that comes with wearing the whole get-up that definitely carries into the way you behave. It was nice, despite being so time consuming.”
Your character in Austenland is obsessed with Jane Austen. Is there anything you’re obsessed with?
“When I was younger, my obsession was more with Nancy Drew. I still feel like I’m obsessed with her. I read every single one of those books. But now, these days, what am I obsessed with? I don’t know. Maybe Michael Ondaatje, or good music, like Bonnie Raitt. I have this old 1971 recording of hers that I play over and over and over. My kids are like, 'Oh, not that again!'”
Why do you think Jane Austen still appeals to people?
“I think it has something to do with the whole idea of someone liking you more for the meeting of the minds, and the acerbic banter. People still like that, and they want that. They just want to know what makes your brain tick. I think that’s always appealing, especially to women.”
Who is your favorite Mr. Darcy?
“My favorite Mr. Darcy? Oh, there are so many. Actually, I’m doing this cable show right now and, funnily enough, the guy who’s on the show with me is playing Mr. Darcy right now on some BBC thing. So I’ll say him.”
Do you personally see yourself as a hopeless romantic, or are you more practical?
“Like Jane, we all have some version of a fantasy that’s easy to escape to. We all want a real relationship where there’s a common give-and-take; where you’re seen for who you are and appreciated for that.”
How have you managed to remain so grounded having started work so young?
“I don’t know. I’m just boring, I guess. I don’t have that exciting of a life.”