Had Keri Russell whipped together a dessert based on what drew her to her pie-making character Jenna in “Waitress,” she might have called it Less-Dreamy-More-Independent-Less-Romantic-Real-Flippant-Spicy-Fun Pie.
“That’s what made it different and fun,” Russell says, ticking off the reasons for playing the flawed, human, resilient character in the Fox Searchlight indie. “I don’t have some system. It’s like reading a good book. I just loved the story. I don’t look at something and say, ‘I’ve never played a drug addict before.’ ”
The world-weary Jenna is a departure from many of the idealistic characters Russell has played in a career that took off with “Felicity” in 1998 and continues to expand with a role in the just-released “August Rush.”
While reading the “Waitress” script, Russell says: “There’s one point in the story where I said, ‘I want to know what that feels like.’ It’s a voiceover. After all the bad stuff happens, Jenna’s been put upon, she’s going on with her life after the affair with the doctor, and she says to her baby she hopes someone will hold her for 30 minutes and let her cry. It comes at a nice point in the story, when she so needs that.
“The main thing is, she’s trying to make her life better,” explains Russell of Jenna’s ambition. “She ultimately has to rely on herself.”
While “Waitress” has resonated for nearly a year following its Sundance Film Festival premiere in January, the rural shoot took only 20 days.
“I’ve lived in small, Southern towns shooting some projects,” Russell says. “I’m very fond of those types of women.”
Of course, all the “Waitress” talk reminds Russell of the tragedy that struck the film when writer, director and co-star Adrienne Shelly was murdered in November 2006.
“I’ve never worked with anyone more in control of what they were doing,” she reminisces about Shelly. “Every line, every frame of that movie is hers. She never said, ‘Do what you want to do,’ and I never said, ‘Wasn’t that a great ad lib?’ ”
Favorite film: “It’s so hard to choose just one — ‘You Can Count on Me’ and ‘A Walk on the Moon.’ ”
Young actor you admire: “Ryan Gosling and Ellen Page. I loved her in ‘Juno.’ ”
What you want in a director: “I like to have some structure, but more than that, it’s the relationship. Some directors don’t say much, but you speak the same language with them and are on the same page.”
Vice: “This delicious ice cream from my farmer’s market in Brooklyn. It’s probably made with gallons of butter.”