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Casting The Waitresses
"Once you're done wiping' away your indiscretions, I'll be sitting in your section, wantin' fresh squeezed orange juice, no ice . . . " -- Joe

Adrienne Shelly knew that her small-town comedy would hinge on her sharply drawn, working-class characters coming vibrantly alive, and that casting the film would be key. The very first character she cast was the heroine at the heart of WAITRESS – Jenna, who is by turns funny, frightened, giddy, irreverent, in love, unraveled and ready to take a wild risk. It wasn't a simple bill to fill yet one actress made it look, well, easy as pie. That was Keri Russell, who began her career as a youngster on the New Mickey Mouse Club variety show, then played the title character on the successful series "Felicity” and has gone on to become a rising young actress with roles ranging from the critically admired drama THE UPSIDE OF ANGER to Tom Cruise's protégé in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III. Her natural beauty has also made her a CoverGirl spokesmodel – but with WAITRESS came a chance to show off a grittier side and a spicy mix of vulnerability and comedy. "The second I sat down with her I knew that she was our Jenna,” Adrienne Shelly said of Keri Russell on the set of the film. "She just had exactly the right spirit and she really grabs your heart and I knew from the second I met her that she was our lead character.”

For Russell, the whip-smart writing in the screenplay had been irresistible. "It's a story about falling in love and the many forms love takes,” Russell says. "I thought it was funny and sad at the same time, and one of the best scripts I'd read. It was also a chance for me to play the ‘straight man' while everyone around me is so funny. It was a challenge just not to laugh during the scenes.”

On the set, Russell felt further inspired by the electric atmosphere that developed among the ensemble cast. "Everyone was doing this movie for all the right reasons,” Russell explains. "It seemed that people were a little more excited and a little more involved than on other shoots I've done.”

At Sundance, despite so many mixed emotions, Russell remained excited about the film, especially when she saw its reception. "Watching the film with an audience, you see that there's really a lot of hope and sweetness in this film and I think people want to feel that,” she says. While Russell's character navigates the tricky territory of pregnancy in the middle of a bad marriage, she is buoyed along by the wit, support and equally impassioned yearnings for a better life of her fellow waitresses at Joe's Diner: mousy Dawn, played by Adrienne Shelly herself with an affectionate, unabashed sense of female geekiness; and brassy Becky, played with spunk by Cheryl Hines, a two-time Emmy® nominee for her role as Larry David's wife on the hit HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

"I'm a big, big fan of Cheryl Hines, so I was really, really excited when she joined us, and she's just hilarious,” Shelly said during production.

The feeling was mutual for Hines, who was most recently seen on the big screen in the comedy RV with Robin Williams. "I was drawn to this film because Adrienne wrote such a moving script,” Hines recalls. "I thought it was funny and thoughtful and a lot like life. As soon as I read it, I was passionate about doing this project.”

Hines especially enjoyed the camaraderie that developed between herself, Russell and Shelly on the set. "Everybody was so great and talented, it was a true privilege to work with the other actors in this movie,” she says. "We all became really good friends and it was a lot of fun just to come and live in this very different world of Joe's Diner for awhile.”

In addition to Keri Russell, Adrienne Shelly and Cheryl Hines, there was another key female character who joined the cast towards the end of production. This was Shelly's

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