Russell might not look older, but at 36 she's the right age to play a mom in the new FX series "The Americans."
Her character has a perfect life: a loving husband, two children, a home in the suburbs. Oh, and an arsenal of weapons hidden in her home.
The series -- set during the early days of the Ronald Reagan administration -- has Russell and co-star Matthew Rhys playing Russian KGB agents who have posed as good Americans for almost 15 years.
The series deals with how the couple is torn between loyalty to the Motherland and parenthood.
Russell's character, Elizabeth, remains the most devoted to Mother Russia.
"I love that I'm not the likable one, the relatable one, on the show," Russell said.
"Elizabeth is not the best mom. She loves her children so much but she's not warm and fuzzy. She's had to compartmentalize major aspects of her life for obvious reasons.
"Raising kids in a place where she doesn't want to live is part of it. She doesn't want her children to be in this place, in this culture."
Russell calls Elizabeth "a good soldier." That point becomes clear early in the series. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is off limits when it comes to spying.
She's able to accomplish some missions -- some very sexual in nature -- because while she's been married for years, to her the relationship is just an act.
There are hints that Elizabeth's devotion is born out of dark elements in her past. But Russell knows her character won't get any sympathy and that she has a tough job ahead.
Russell's finding great fun in unraveling the emotions Elizabeth is feeling. That's because she generally gets cast in much lighter roles without a lot of action.
"The Americans" is a 180-degree swing from her last TV series, where she starred with Will Arnett in the short-lived "Running Wilde." About the only comparison is that she's a mom in both.
The role is so different for Russell that she thought the script was sent to her as a joke, especially considering she had just had a baby and wasn't actively looking for work.
Once it was explained to her that the idea of casting her was to get away from the stereotype of female Russian spies as being lanky, big-lipped and dark, she became intrigued.
"I would ride my bike around Brooklyn and think about the script. It's so not just a straight procedural, but has so many different elements that I'm still figuring it out.
"In the end, it was a role that interested me. I kept coming back to what this relationship must be like," Russell Said.
"Then to top it off, there's the spy fantasy element where you do get to have sex with other people and it's OK.
"The marriage is what interested me the most."
"The Americans" airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX.
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