“The network canceled us — kind of. And then they were like, ‘Just kidding,’ do a few more,'” titular star Keri Russell said in Austin, Tex. Sunday.
She added that series co-creators and executive producers J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves had agreed with the cast that Felicity had to graduate by the end of the show, so they planned for that moment to come in the 17th episode of the fourth season “regardless if they [were] going to give us [more].”
Then, when the WB did come back with an order for five more episodes that would ultimately wrap up the series permanently, the show was tasked with the question of what life-post graduation would look like for a character whose journey started by following her high school crush across the country.
But rather than explore life post-school, the five-episode series ender actually took Felicity back in time to offer an alternate look at her life and explore what would have happened if she had chosen Noel (Scott Foley) instead of Ben (Scott Speedman).
“Ben turned out to be kind of a turd, and so then she got to go back like everyone was wondering…and make a different choice and see what would happen,” Amanda Foreman, who played Megan, pointed out. “I thought it was great. [And] they shot it all in sepia so you knew it wasn’t quite real.”
“It all makes sense to me now,” Foley said of the original ending. “She chose Ben because I died. Noel wasn’t even a choice. She had no one else.”
More seriously, though, Russell shared that she thinks the “chance to change your life completely” is a strong theme to tackle for a character at such a pivotal point in life.
“I feel like everyone at some point can look back and be like, ‘I wish I would have chosen him’ or ‘I wish I would have taken that chance.’ And I think that’s what they grabbed so well,” she said about the show, “and that’s what we got to live out through Felicity. Because she did, she took the risk, she jumped, and that’s what I felt was the core strength of the show.”
Foreman also said she thought Felicity’s haircut was a strong choice for the character and the show. “Way too many women are identified by their vanity with their hair, myself included,” she said. “And Keri went for it. She was like, ‘F— it.'”
Russell shared that the haircut came about because she had stumbled on a “little boy’s wig” on set and put it on and took a Polaroid photo. Over the summer before the show was about to return, she thought it would be funny to send the photo to Abrams and Reeves and tell them she had already cut her hair.
But then she got a call from them asking if she really would.
“It’s such a typical college girl story where a guy breaks up with her and she cuts her hair and it looks bad,” she said.
While she was all for it, she didn’t expect such a large contingent of the audience to be so against it.
“Felicity was never a fashion plate anyway…I was wearing baggy clothes, and I didn’t know everyone cared about the way I looked,” she said.
In the first season, “Felicity” explored a sexual assault storyline that took place over two episodes. Decades ahead of #MeToo, the show tackled date rape through Felicity’s best friend Julie (Amy Jo Johnson). Now with that movement as a backdrop, the cast reflected on how the topic was handled.
“If you’re going to play the reality of that, you don’t just bounce back. …It took a toll on the character in a way that must have been tough. I think they handled it well because it was very much like it would be,” Foreman said.
“Twenty years later I think you can look at this show and it holds up in #MeToo and all of the conversations we’re having about sexuality,” Trilling added. “My memory serves we did OK with all of that.”
Johnson also revealed a little-known secret from the series run: she did not do the theme song, despite the soundtrack crediting her for it.
“Somehow that was like a misprint on the CD. But I did ‘Puddle of Grace,'” Johnson said.
“J.J. did the theme. J.J. did the theme to all of his shows, including ‘Lost,’ and I’m not kidding…because he needs the money,” Greg Grunberg, who played Sean, joked.
There was still at least one lingering question for the cast and the audience of “Felicity” all these years later, though — what was in Megan’s box? Foreman said she doesn’t know, “and if you ask J.J. he’ll say, ‘I don’t freaking know.'” But she had a theory that it was something like a piece of paper on which was a confession to murder.
“Because her parents see it and get super upset,” Foreman said of Felicity. “It was clearly dramatic. But it had to be small enough to fit in the box. So maybe a confession [or] maybe a finger.”
Trilling joked that it was the key to the hatch from “Lost.”
It’s a question that could be answered with a reboot. Foley shared that he originally felt they shouldn’t do a reboot but being back with his former castmates has made him realize how much he has missed them.
“I feel like the show was so specific to the characters in the time in their lives that to do it again would be an injustice to the characters that we all love,” he said of his original philosophy. “But looking genuinely at these faces and seeing that little clip that you all saw and feeling some of the emotions as you reminisce over that, I would kind of love to work with you again. I would love to find out what happened to Richard, to Javier, to Elena.”
“And what happened on the roof,” Russell chimed in.