The “Felicity 20 Year Reunion” on Sunday during the ATX Television Festival was everything you wanted it to be: sweet and funny with a serious side of nostalgia and life lessons.
The cast seemed genuinely happy to be together (some hadn’t seen each other since the show ended) and fell into an easy rhythm that mirrored the vibe from the show. For most, “Felicity” was their first big jobs and they learned with and from each other, with a lot of camaraderie and no drama behind the scenes.
On the panel: Keri Russell (Felicity), Scott Speedman (Ben), Scott Foley (Noel), Greg Grunberg (Sean), Amy Jo Johnson (Julie), Tangi Miller (Elena), Amanda Foreman (Meghan) Ian Gomez (Javier), Rob Benedict (Richard), and director/producer Lawrence Trilling.
A few highlights from their talk with moderator/actress/No. 1 “Felicity” fan Lennon Parham:
The hair cannot be ignored. Russell related the backstory on that haircut: She sent a photo of herself in a boy’s wig as a joke after season one to co-creators Matt Reeves and J.J. Abrams. They surprised her: Abrams called to ask “Would you really cut your hair?” It made sense for the character, as she put herself first after round one of the great Felicity-Noel-Ben triangle. Russell said she was surprised by the reaction to the cut, mostly because “Felicity was never a fashion plate.” (Check out those sweaters from season one.)
What about a reboot? Even a movie seems unlikely, although cast members talked about wanting to work together again, on something. Foley said he was asked in a Saturday interview and his answer then was it would be in injustice to the legacy of the show, which captured such a specific time. But nostalgia is powerful and sitting with his castmates 24 hours later, Foley was wavering: “There’s a way to do it,” and “I’ve missed you guys.” As Noel’s Magic 8 Ball keychain might say, “Reply hazy try again (in 20 years?).”
Foley was cast as Ben for one week. Producers were having trouble finding their Noel, and then Speedman’s audition tape from Canada arrived. Foley joked that he was switched to Noel because “they didn’t want to fire me. J.J. hadn’t been a boss for very long.” Speedman, who combed hands through his hair and reacted to Grunberg’s jokes on Sunday in very Ben fashion, said there was a blurring between him and Ben: “I was a tortured, brooding 22-year-old and that worked out.”
Tidbits: Richard was meant to be a one episode character, but Benedict had great comic timing and chemistry with the cast, particularly Foley. Meghan, too, might have been a one-off in the pilot, if not for Foreman. Speedman was once kicked off set by Trilling for laughing too much during a dramatic scene. Russell (channeling Felicity?) came to his defense (he was going through a hard time), Trilling got him back and “he nailed the scene.” Grunberg says Smoothaise, the condiment of unknown ingredients created by his character Sean, still “haunts his life.” Your “Felicity” soundtrack CD says Amy Jo Johnson sang the theme song for the first two seasons. That’s a lie! Grunberg and Foley had Torchy’s Tacos together on Saturday.
The legacy. Beyond the romances and capturing a very specific college world, the show leaves a larger message, according to Russell: It shows you have “the chance to change your life completely.” That’s the beauty, sweetness and truth of the show: Felicity took the risks to go for what she wanted. She made mistakes, but they were her mistakes.
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