80° Good Afternoon
80° Good Afternoon

Keri Russell of 'Dark Skies' talks 'Felicity,' motherhood

Keri Russell attends the Jan. 26, 2013, premiere

Keri Russell attends the Jan. 26, 2013, premiere of the FX television series "The Americans" in Manhattan. Credit: AP

Keri Russell has never seen the original "Amityville Horror" house, but anyone who's driven by it knows ... it couldn't look tamer.

Same goes for the house in "Dark Skies," a new supernatural thriller from writer-director Scott Stewart, starring Russell and opening Friday. Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a likable suburban couple with two boys, financial woes and ... a mysterious force in the house plaguing their kids. When weird things start happening to the boys, the Barretts fall under suspicion (think Casey Anthony or the parents of JonBenét Ramsey) and must fight to solve the mystery.

Russell also stars with Jennifer Coolidge in the upcoming "Austenland," a rom-com about Jane Austen fanatics from "Napoleon Dynamite" screenwriter Jerusha Hess.

On TV, Russell's gone from "Felicity"--for which she won a Golden Globe--to duplicity, starring with Matthew Rhys in the new FX series "The Americans," a drama about Russian sleeper cells placed undercover in the United States during the Reagan era. They kidnap, blackmail, seduce ... and run a travel agency.

Russell, 36, who lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children, chatted by phone with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio while on a short break on the set of "The Americans."

You've got a lot going on.

Holy moley! Just now I thought -- wait, am I being interviewed for "Dark Skies"? "The Americans"? "Austenland"? Is it for the private school I'm trying to get my kid into? Ohhh.

Ah, yes, New York parents and the hunt for the perfect school.

It's dreadful ... that could be a full-time job if I let it.

Almost as scary as "Dark Skies," huh? It's interesting -- in typical haunted house films, the place is often high on a hill or in the woods, but here it's smack dab in the middle of suburbia.

It feels so real -- the dad losing his job, money troubles, the kids riding bikes, going to the local pool, barbecues, everything's normal, but there are these ... outside forces at work. And you wonder, why this family? Why not next door? To me it could be a metaphor for illness or kidnapping or an affair breaking up a family. It's about parents trying hard to keep their family intact.

Like "Poltergeist." Or "Insidious." Or "The Amityville Horror."

You've got a family going about their business and then thinking, something's weird here. And the couple argues about it -- the husband saying, "You're talking like a crazy person -- listen to yourself." And the wife saying, "You're right, just forget it." Then weird things happen again. There's definitely this feeling of ... powerlessness. Like ... it's coming, no matter what you do.

Sounds like superstorm Sandy ...

Yes. When we were shooting, Sandy hadn't happened, but I thought so much about Katrina, and what it must've been like for people with kids caught in the midst of that. I just tried to play it real. There was a lot more screaming and crying than normal.

More than "Felicity"?

Well ... maybe not. College girls do a lot of screaming and crying.

"The Americans" is also realistic. Is it tough portraying a Russian spy, and still being the hero? Y'know ... usually the Commies are the bad guys.

Totally. I think that's what Joe Weisberg has done so well. You're not supposed to like this couple. And yet hopefully you root for them. It's still a work in progress ... but it's really interesting. The two main characters have been in this KGB-arranged marriage for 16 years, sent to the U.S. to live in the suburbs and eventually have kids together, so they can be on deep, deep cover. They don't trust each other, yet they're falling in love for the first time. It's very cool.

And this is based on real accounts of such couples?

There are similar accounts. Ours is definitely a fantasy version of it.

Then there's "Austenland."

It's so bright, shiny, poppy and fun -- and so wildly different than these other two projects. The idea is that Jennifer Coolidge and I are so obsessed with Jane Austen we go to a fantasy Jane Austen resort, where these actors are paid to flirt with us in character. It's such a sad, lonely, hilarious idea to me.

They need you.

They're calling me in. I'm going to a torture room, Joe!

A torture room?

I'm being thrown into a torture room! I can't tell you what's happening. But I'm going to be sort of tortured.

Will there be a Jane Austen hero doing the torturing?

I hope so. And talking to me very acerbically ... but sort of flirting at the same time. I'm hoping that will happen.

More Entertainment