Keri Russell’s best performances: “The Americans”, “The Diplomat”

Netflix’s new political thriller and Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear are a great excuse to revisit Russell’s roles on the big and small screens.

(Clockwise from bottom left): "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," "Cocaine Bear," Keri Russell, "The diplomat" and "Waitress"

(Clockwise from bottom left): “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” “Cocaine Bear,” Keri Russell, “The Diplomata” and “Waitress”

Credit: Courtesy of Everett Collection/Disney/Netflix

After five years, the TV gods have answered the prayers of fans and Keri Russell is finally back on our screens. Once and always Felicity Porter stars in the political thriller “The Diplomat,” which hits Netflix this week — her first starring role in a show since the much-loved “The Americans.”

The show is a highlight of the first few months of 2023 for Russell. In February of this year, he led the star-studded ensemble of “Cocaine Bear,” Elizabeth Banks’ gory comedy thriller that sparked many memes. Set in 1984, the film gave Russell a chance to shake off the kind of shoulder pad look he sported during “The Americans,” a Cold War series where he played a ruthless Russian spy. It also gave her a chance to reunite with her co-stars, including Margo Martindale and real-life partner Matthew Rhys, just in time for the 10-year anniversary of the acclaimed series’ premiere.

The role ushered in a whole new era in Russell’s career, earning the actor his first Emmy nomination and winning critical and audience acclaim. However, Russell has been in the business since the age of 15, when he appeared on Disney Channel’s ‘Mickey Mouse Club’. She came to prominence and gained credibility in 1998 when she played the title role in the WB college dramedy series ‘Felicity’. At just 22 years old, Russell already had many of the acting skills that made him so popular on “The Americans” and he got to showcase them on the show. But after the series ended, it took until “The Americans” to regain attention in Hollywood.

As an actor, Russell has an undeniable charisma and gravitas that make him a natural on screen; when he’s in a scene, it’s hard to take your eyes off him. But his skills run deeper: he has a talent for finding the layers in his characters and teasing them out, communicating a lot with the audience with very little action. And despite having the presence of a movie star, he deftly tailors his performances to his roles, making sure that none of the characters he plays ever feels exactly the same.

In anticipation of “The Diplomat” and Russell’s return to TV, here are the best performances of the actor’s career, ranked.

With editorial contributions by Kate Erbland, Alison Foreman, and Erin Strecker.

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