Keri Russell’s Star Wars Character Is A Badass Mercenary… Who Apparently Reminds Her Of Felicity

Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
If your memories of Felicity don’t go past the pilot, in which Keri Russell’s protagonist moved across the country because her crush (Scott Speedman) said something nice to her (the show eventually got deeper than that) — the actress’ observation probably isn’t going to make much sense to you. But here it goes anyway: Keri Russell’s Rise of Skywalker character, Zorii Bliss, has a few things in common with Felicity Porter. 
Felicity and its titular character were created by JJ Abrams — you know, the guy who did The Force Awakens and Russell’s latest film, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker. Russell was quick to find a connection between her first Abrams character and her latest, a mercenary and spy with no allegiance, either to the Resistance or the fascist First Order. Zorii wields two brass pistols, has a “revealing” history (eyebrows emoji implied) with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and rocks a stylish maroon jumpsuit and matching helmet. 
“Zorii is the best version of every person I want to be. She can take care of herself. She’s a survivor,” says Russell at the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker press junket in Pasadena, CA. “Her costume tells you a little bit about her too, because she doesn’t want to reveal anything about herself. She lives in an occupied territory, where everything is sort of the underworld, and to have freedom in the underworld, you don’t want anyone to know your identity.”
Felicity was busy trying to pass finals and navigate the rules of female friendship, all while trying to make it to her shifts at Dean & Deluca. Zorii is a dangerous player in a massive Star War. What about her could possibly scream “Felicity” besides the shared Abrams credit? 
To start, Felicity had her baggy sweaters; Zorii has her disguise. 
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images.
“I had this incredible freedom on Felicity, where I didn’t have to be the pretty girl,” Russell says. “I wore no makeup and big baggy clothes, and I just got to be me. I just got to be mad or angry — that was the function of my character. I didn’t have to work hard at being sultry or sexy, which was so cool and unique as a girl.”
Covering her face in the new Star Wars movie was another chance to escape the typical expectations placed upon most women in big budget projects (she also got to skip the makeup chair, for the most part).
“Zorii is really sexy and cool in her own way, but it’s not the typical female way. Like, listen, I’m wearing heavy lipstick right now, too, but it’s not the normal tropes we see from her. Other things are appealing about her: her strength and resourcefulness.”
Still, there’s not a clear one-to-one comparison between the two Abrams characters. In fact, Zorii is almost aspirational for the notoriously private actor.
“To be hidden to and to see everyone, but no one can see me is my other dream because I’m sort of an introvert. It’s my fantasy,” Russell says. “You can’t see a single part of her. It’s so alluring. When JJ pitched me what it was going to be, I was like, Fuck yes, I want to do that.”
She seems to have gotten her wish. Director Ava Duvernay, who hosted the Rise of Skywalker press conference and saw the film alongside the cast, didn’t know Russell played Zorii until the credits rolled. That’s good news for Russell, who’s seen how Star Wars fame changed the life of her co-star in Rise of Skywalker and Broadway’s Burn This, Adam Driver. During a rehearsal for the play, which closed in July, she witnessed the very consequences she’ll avoid by playing a totally masked character.
“I’d say, Let’s walk, it’s only six blocks, and then you realize, Oh right. Adam can’t walk through Times Square. I can walk everywhere, and he can’t walk anywhere, and that must be hard,” she says. “I came in at the end, icing on the cake. They did all the work, and I just got to come in and reap some benefits.”
Nevertheless, the fact that Russell made it into the final film in the Skywalker Saga has raised her star for one very important audience member: her preteen son. 
“He did kind of say, very mellow, ‘That is cool,’” she says with a laugh. “I have a little bit of 12-year-old street cred. But this is like the only thing, because I was like, So, I’m cool, and he’s like, ‘No. You’re not. You’re always Mom.’ Which is great. That’s also good.”
Related Content:

More from TV

R29 Original Series