The ex-Mouseketeer—who portrayed the indelible title character of the coming-of-age drama “Felicity” and the suburban Washington, D.C., wife and kick-ass Cold War-era Russian spy in “The Americans”—transforms into Zorri Bliss, a masked denizen of shady cantinas in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Here are a few things to know about Russell as the film hits theaters this month.
Though she began her career at 15 on “The All New Mickey Mouse Club” with Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears, she thinks the idea of child actors is “creepy.”
➜ “I think I had an easier go than most kid actors do,” she said on the “Off Camera” podcast. “(Acting professionally is) a weird stress that I think kids shouldn’t have to deal with. I sort of feel like I had the best version of that because it was 19 kids, so the adults were invisible to me. And they were all so wildly talented. I was literally the least talented on the show. I definitely loved being a part of it. It was so nice that I wasn’t the only kid with a bunch of adults.”
The controversial pixie haircut she got during “Felicity” started out as a practical joke.
➜ At the end of the first season, Russell and the hairstylists hid her trademark ringlets under a wig, took a photo, and sent it to the show’s creators with a note: “I cut my hair—hope you like it.” The prank gave the show runners (J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves) the idea that her college-student character might radically change her hairstyle in the wake of a bad breakup and asked if Russell would consider cutting her hair. The flap over the new ’do became one of TV Guide’s “25 Biggest TV Blunders.”
She made her Broadway debut this spring in Lanford Wilson’s incendiary drama “Burn This” with her “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” compatriot Adam Driver.
➜ As Anna, a dancer-turned-choreographer, and Pale, her dangerously destructive lover, they took on roles originated in 1987 by Joan Allen, who won the Tony Award for best actress, and John Malkovich in a career-making performance.
She was deeply moved when Abrams sent her the script that concludes the Star Wars saga.
➜ “When I read his script that he wrote, I cried,” she told The Associated Press. It wasn’t the first time she was emotionally overcome by the space epic. “When I was in kindergarten, my best friend’s dad dressed up as Yoda in a very realistic mask,” she said on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” “By the way, he’s a nice guy. But I cried.”
Word of her casting as Zorri Bliss touched off a frenzy of speculation about the character, with fans guessing that she might be a commander in Leia’s Resistance or a Knight of Ren.
➜ In an interview with co-star Oscar Isaac at D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim this summer, Russell revealed: “She has a little bit of a checkered past and maybe some questionable morals. But really she’s an old friend of (Poe Dameron, played by Isaac).”