Credit: Jack Guy

Jack GuyLets face it: calling a celebrity “real” is a huge cliche—but we just couldnt help ourselves with Keri Russell. She arrives—early—at a bakery near her Brooklyn, New York, home, her hair in a loose bun, toting packages bound for the post office. When I offer to pay for her scone, she scoffs.

The 33-year-old star of TVs Felicity grew up in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, and moved to this quiet corner of Brooklyn in 2007 with her husband, Shane Deary, a carpenter, and their son, River, now 2.

Shes passionate about childrens-health issues and recently teamed with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser in Extraordinary Measures, based on the true story of a couple whose two youngest children are diagnosed with a rare, fatal disease; as the clock runs out, they and Fords character start a biotech company to find a cure. Over breakfast, the self-deprecating star talks about the importance of downtime, her favorite new way to exercise, and fighting for better health care for kids. Then, shes off to the post office.

Q: Was your role in Extraordinary Measures more difficult than usual to play because you have a small son?
A: I didnt want to do it at first. I read the script, its such a compelling story, but, yeah—having a 2-year-old at the time … the story goes that they have their second kid, whos perfectly healthy, and then theyre told that shes not going to live beyond 8.

Q: Have you met the real-life family this story is based on?
A: I went to New Jersey and spent some time with them. Theyre young, incredibly funny, and dynamic. I said, “I want you to understand—this is a movie. This is your life story, and it is not going to be that, its going to be some other version of that, so please tell yourselves that every single day.” Because Id absolutely hate it! To have some cheesy actor doing that! [Laughs.]

Q: Youve gone to Washington, D.C., with Childrens Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman to meet with senators and administration officials to advocate for childrens health care.
A: She took a group of women, four of whom were mothers with stories of how they had basically been robbed by health care. They had jobs, but through a matter of, say, their husband making $1.50 over the poverty line, they couldnt get their child who has a rare disease something that would prevent her from dying. It doesnt matter who you are, who you are born to, or what state you live in, it should be a mandate across the board that every kid gets to see a doctor when she needs to. But these stoic senators were looking at us with blank eyes. Its crazy.

Next Page: How Keri keeps her energy up. [ pagebreak ]Q: How do you keep your energy up?
A: When I have time, working out really helps. Anything—walking, going for a run, Pilates—whatever theres time for. I feel endlessly better when I do that.

Q: Whats your fitness regimen?
A: My favorite thing, especially living in Brooklyn, is that I got a bike recently, and I ride it everywhere—to get groceries, the farmers market, to the park. Shane and I even biked into [Manhattan] a few times to meet friends for dinner. Also, we do dance parties at the house with River.

Q: Would you consider having another baby?
A: Yes! Were not there yet, but its totally a possibility. Although, I just ran into a friend of mine, and I said, “Hows the second baby?” And she said, “You have two, you might as well have 300.” [Laughs.]

Q: Even before you had River, you took breaks from your career to just hang out. Why is downtime important? And does your agent understand?
A: Theyre so used to me disappearing! Im just interested in a lot of things, and I like my alone time. If it were up to me, Id love to work once or twice a year. But Im not a gazillionaire, and I do have a house payment.

Q: We also never see you barfing out of a limo.
A: Theres still time! Dont count me out just yet.

Q: But, honestly, are you just someone who craves alone time?
A: Its true. If Im at a dinner party and its getting too crazy, I always have a moment where I just lock myself in the bathroom and breathe for a while.

Q: Youve said its embarrassing seeing photos of yourself in full makeup. Why?
A: I think sometimes when people do full makeup on me, I look like a little kid trying to dress up. I dont think I look my best like that. [Laughs.] I think I look sort of silly.

Q: So running around town, you wear …
A: I like my concealer, my lip balm, and mascara.

Q: I read somewhere that you said its sad when young girls think they have nothing to offer other than being pretty. Can you explain?
A: I have no idea when I said that, but I have a feeling it was during Felicity. Because one of the most fun parts of doing that character was that I never had to be the pretty girl. Im never the girl at the dinner party wearing the tight dress and the high heels. Its stressful to be someones version of beautiful. I feel much more comfortable being silly. As a girl you grow up and you want to be so attractive, and, truthfully, if you take that out of the equation and you just do what youre interested in, youre usually more attractive, anyway.

Next Page: Why Keri's skin always looks so fresh.
[ pagebreak ]Q: Your skin always looks so fresh. What do you use?
A: For sunblock I use Mario Badescu because it has SPF 15, and I use it during the day.

Q: In your line of work theres plenty of pressure to be thin. Do you diet?
A: God, no.

Q: You never went through a dieting phase?
A: No. Im totally lucky, and its just body type. My dads whole side of the family is very thin. Thank God I have that gene, because I eat doughnuts like theres no tomorrow. But I do like to be physical, and I think if I just sat on my ass all day, Id start seeing the effects. And certainly after a baby, its not exactly like it used to be. But thats not my issue. There are plenty of other issues, but food is not one of them.

Q: Whats your favorite way to spend the weekends?
A: Lately, on Sundays we make a big brunch, where we have a fire in the fireplace and lots of food. It
usually starts at 10 and ends at 4, and you just sit and chat.

Q: What vice do you wish you could change?
A: Hmm … so many. [Laughs.] Late-night zit-picking. And not answering my phone. I dont even know why I have a phone. My girlfriend Mandy, who was on Felicity with me, always imitates the way I say hello. Its like, [timidly] “Hello?” Like Im scared. She says, “You saw that it was my number, why do you sound afraid?”

Q: Do you think the fact that your husband isnt in the celebrity world helps your marriage?
A: I feel that its a huge part of the success of the relationship. I love that he doesnt really know anything about this business—and hes always excited about it. And I love what he does. I think its incredibly sexy. I mean, hes a hot carpenter … what can I say?

Q: Whats the absolute best advice you ever heard about how to balance career and family?
A: My dear friend Julie has three kids. When I had River and did not get a babysitter for a long time, she said, “Dont be a martyr. It is not serving anyone.” And shes absolutely right. You cant do everything. And you dont know it until you know it.

Next Page: Keri's favorite things [ pagebreak ]Keri's favorite things:
Ultimate drink:
A latte in the morning. With whole milk.

Must-have jeans: Earnest Sewn.

Current favorite book: Another Bullshit Night In Suck City by Nick Flynn. It really affected me.

Life-changing baby product: When River was a baby, it was the New Native cotton sling. And now, this little orange ukulele that River has. We have jam sessions at home.

Top guilty pleasure: I would say massages.

Fave Web site: Ooh!

Movie Ive watched the most times: Pre-child, A Walk On The Moon. Now, I would have to say Finding Nemo.

Favorite place in the whole world: Big Sur.

Cant-resist fast food: Taco Bell. It does have a gross factor, but when its good, its really good. And Chick-Fil-A. When I was shooting a movie in Shreveport, Louisiana, we would go sometimes three times a day. The kids that worked there would be like, “Do you want your regular?” [Laughs.]