Keri Russell grew up as one of Disney Channel’s famous Mickey Mouse Club members — she’s just not entirely sure why.
“I was there at a time when there were a lot of famous kids there. And I say this completely truthfully: I was literally the least talented one there. I’m not kidding,” Russell, 47, told W Magazine in an interview published on Tuesday, August 15. “When I look at those kids, I’m like, why in the world did they pick me? It was wild.”
Russell joined the All-New Mickey Mouse Club troupe — also known as the MMC — at the age of 15 in 1991. The series — which aired every weekday — included live musical performances, sketch comedy and dance routines.
Russell noted that despite the whirlwind experience, some of the cast — like Ilana Miller and Lindsey Alley — are still her “best friends” today. When asked if she saved anything else from her time on set besides the lifelong pals, she replied: “My sanity. My dignity. Not everyone got out alive.”
Russell may not have always felt like her talents matched up with the rest of the MMC group, but she did have one way of making friends with her fellow Mouseketeers – a car.
“They were all very talented. Like, Christina and Britney and Ryan Gosling and Justin, all those kids were 12 when I was 17. So I was a little older,” Russell said during a February appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show. “I mean, I could drive. I was cool. But they were wildly talented.”
Russell went on to become a star in her own right, landing the lead role on The WB’s Felicity from 1998 to 2002. The college-based series followed shy Felicity Porter across the country to New York City as she chases after her high school crush. The series only lasted four seasons, but it quickly became critically acclaimed, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Series in 1999. Russell took home the Golden Globe award for Best Actress — Drama Series that same year.
“I was nominated, and I didn’t even know what the Golden Globes were,” Russell told W Magazine on Tuesday. “They were like, ‘Well, you have to wear something fancy.’ So someone dressed me, and I remember they did my hair and makeup, and I was like, “No, no, no. I don’t want you to put makeup on. Then I won’t look like me.” I look at that picture, and I had mascara on maybe, and cheeks, and my wild, crazy curly hair. It’s so different now.”
After a wildly successful first season, however, Felicity substantially dropped in ratings. Many critics attributed the fall in viewership to Russell’s character chopping off her curly locks after going through a breakup, for which Russell sends her deepest apologies.
“Then they cut my hair on the show. [The writers] were like, ‘Would you do that?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ Because the character wasn’t known to be this beautiful person. She was this nerdy, kind of overly emotional college student,” Russell explained. “And I thought, ‘Of course, every one of my friends cut their hair. They’d break up with a boy, and then they’d have this terrible haircut.’ So I thought it was perfect. But it was crazy. People were very upset by that haircut. Sorry.”
Since Felicity, Russell has gone on to nab a slew of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her work on FX’s The Americans, which ran from 2013 to 2018. She’s now starring on Netflix’s The Diplomat as self-described “sweaty” and “hairy” Kate Wyler. It was a role she wasn’t searching for but is glad she found.
“I had a really great run with The Americans. I wasn’t looking to do a new show, but Debora Cahn’s writing was just the perfect combination of intellect and this diplomatic world that I knew very little about, with this added sprinkle of screwball comedy,” she told the outlet. “The brightness of that was attractive to me.”