Twenty years after “Felicity” premiered, the cast and creatives gathered Sunday at the ATX Television Festival to say … hey.
And to reminisce about the introspective young adult drama that tracked the coming-of-age journey of college student Felicity Porter, played by Keri Russell, and her group of friends. Created by J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, the series ran for four seasons on the now-defunct WB network before ending its run in 2002. But it lives on in the streaming age, with its library of episodes available on Hulu.
Here’s what you missed:
--Why it resonated, according to Russell: “To me the beauty of the show was always this simple idea … the romantic idea of this chance to change your life completely. I think that was the sweetness and the beauty of the show.”
Greg Grunberg, who played invention-loving Sean, deadpanned: “I thought it was all the hair.”
-- Scott Foley as Ben? Foley, who played well-meaning resident advisor Noel Crane, was originally supposed to play Felicity’s brooding crush Ben. “What a [crappy] show that would have been,” Foley joked. The actor said he was in the process of wardrobe fittings for the character of Ben when producers struggled to cast Noel. “They were having a hard time casting Noel,” Foley added. “I think they liked this guy [Scott Speedman] as Ben better, but J.J. didn’t want to fire me … Nobody could have played Ben Covington better than Scott Speedman. I’m sure there are a bunch of guys that could have played Noel better than me.”
-- So, what was in Meghan’s box? Fans of the show remember that Felicity’s wacky dorm roommate, played by Amanda Foreman, had a mysterious box she never wanted anyone near. But what exactly was inside that was such a secret? “I don’t know,” Foreman insists. “Neither does J.J. If you ask J.J. he’s like, ‘I don’t know.’” But if Foreman had a guess: “It had to be small enough to fit in a box. I thought maybe it was a confession to a murder or something … Or it could be a finger.”
-- The way the series ended … was interesting. The cast reflected on what essentially could be viewed as two series finales—the one before the time travel arc and the one after it. “There was [two endings], because the network canceled us …. kind of. And then said, ‘Just kidding, do a few more,’” Russell recalled. Grunberg teased that the WB Network put another show on in the interim, but quickly canceled it, prompting the order for the additional “Felicity” episodes. “And that show was ‘Roseanne,’” Grunberg deadpanned.
Foreman voiced her support of the divisive time traveling twist. “I thought it was a really fun thing because she was questioning if she made the right decision picking Ben — because Ben turned out to be kind of a turd — so she got to go back. I thought it was great, really clever.”
Just don’t ask Foley about Noel’s death … because, well, he forgot it even happened. “It all makes sense to me now,” he joked. “She chose Ben because I died. It wasn’t a choice! She had no option!” Sure, Scott. Sure.
--That wedding toast at Noel’s wedding from the finale… The speech was actually Grunberg giving thanks to the cast and crew. “What you didn’t see, and I’d love to find the tape somehwere is Greg getting up there and what he was saying to us was basically a love letter to the cast,” Foley said. “He singled everyone out to thank them for the best four years of his life — and if you watch that scene, you can see each cast member’s reaction to the nice things,” he said. “You can see how emotional each of us is getting to what he is saying.” Of course, in the actual series, music played over the scene.
-- OK, OK, let’s talk about the hair. Felicity’s epic Season 2 haircut that had people talking did not go unmentioned during the panel. Russell said it all came to fruition because of a joke photo she took showing herself wearing a little boy’s wig, which she sent to Abrams and Reeves to make them think she cut her hair after the first season wrapped.
“I was with my girlfriends at some lake and I got this phone call … and [Abrams] said, ‘Hey, we got your picture, would you really cut your hair?” And I said, “I guess.” The producers felt it would fall in line with what a young woman might do after a breakup as a means of a fresh start. While the reaction was polarizing, Russell was Team Haircut. “I loved it,” she said. “I thought that was such a good storyline. And I think the thing that was so surprising to me about the reaction is that Felicity was never a fashion plate anyway … so I didn’t get why everyone cared so much about the way I looked.”
-- Hey … what about a reunion? What would the gathering of a television cast after decades apart be without a question about a possible revival? The ATX Television Festival has helped spawn them before (e.g. “Gilmore Girls”). Foley admits that he used to be of the mind that the show was specific to the characters in that time of their lives and to pick up years later would be an “injustice” to the show. And then Sunday happened. “Looking at these faces and … feeling some of the emotions … I would love to work with everyone again. And get an opportunity to find out what happened to [everyone]. I don’t know how it would work or what that story would be ...”
Speedman seemed positive: “There’s a way to make it work.”
Take note, television executives.