Keri Russell Turns 40! The Birthday Girl Explains Why She's Nothing Like Her The Americans Character

Keri Russell, Met Gala 2015, Beauty

Julian Mackler/BFA/Sipa USA

Happy birthday, Keri Russell! Everyone’s favorite TV spy turns the big 4-0 today.

Fans of the FX drama The Americans all know that Russell’s character Elizabeth Jennings is a badass spy and one half of the dynamic duo more commonly known as just: the Jennings.

Elizabeth definitely has espionage and fighting for her motherland down in this spy thriller set in the 1980’s, but what about motherhood? Russell’s character has two children, Paige and Henry, who seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to their mother’s allotment of attention.

The Americans, Keri RussellFrank Ockenfels/FX

Critics of the show have all been quick to question the character’s competency as a mother, but when Keri was asked how she feels about her character’s mothering skills, the star defended her “fantasy person,” admitting to The New York Times that she genuinely loves the kind of mother Elizabeth is.

 NEWS: Keri Russell Is Pregnant! Expecting Matthew Rhys’ Baby

“Especially these days when we’re all supposed to be craft-making, cookie-making, have a career, be sexy, have a great body, go to Pilates,” Jeri dished to the publication. “She’s not at home making Halloween costumes or inviting her kids’ friends over for cupcakes. It’s totally refreshing.”

But when it comes down to the real-world practice of parenting, Keri— who is about to be a proud mother of three—is a devoted mother who uses slightly different parenting techniques compared to that of her sultry alter ego.

The Americans, Holly Taylor, Keri Russell FX

In previous seasons of the series, Keri’s character exhibited careless tendencies when it came to her children—including, but not limited to—the many instances where she left her children without a babysitter (in dangerous situations, no less).

And in the third season of The Americans, Elizabeth wants Paige to join the “family business,” as a spy for the KGB. Actions like this will probably keep her at the tops of “worst moms of TV” lists for quite a while. 

Keri Russell, The Americans

Exhibit B—remember that time when Elizabeth, frustrated by her daughter, pushed a frightened, young Paige into the pool during a swim lesson?

At least we can chalk this one up to tough love though, right?

Keri RussellElder Ordonez/

The Felicity alumni takes a gentler approach with her real-life children: Willa and River.

“You instantly become less selfish,” Keri told Parade when asked about how her life has changed since becoming a mother, “You can’t be the biggest person in the world anymore—they are. It really grounds you.” 

READ: The Americans Returns for Season 4 With Big Regrets and Even Bigger Reveals

Keri RussellHawk Eye/Splash News

When Keri is with her children, even at photo shoots and interviews, she is known to enter “full-on, silly mom-mode”—a far cry from Elizabeth’s 24/7 work mentality, no? 

“I like working hard,” Keri tells Parade, “but my life outside of my career is equally important to me,” the actress explained.

Keri Russell, The Americans

But at the end of the day, the tough Elizabeth Jennings, just like the actress who portrays her, does her best to do right by her children. She may be an undercover, murderous spy, but most days Elizabeth Jennings gets the kids to school on time and has dinner ready on the table.

Keri Russell, Matthew RhysFrederick M. Brown/Getty Images

But comparisons aside, the award-winning actress opened up about the realities of turning 40 in her New York Times interview, sharing:

“When I think of turning 40, I really think of being at the top of my game—looking great and being reckless and carefree and dancing with my girlfriends. And instead I’ll be barely digesting my dinner, about to deliver a baby. It’s not going to be that idealistic moment of being a woman, like, ‘This is where I am before it starts to turn.’ But maybe when I’m 41?” 

There’s always time!

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