Sunday, January 21, 2007

Felicitous: An interview with the cast of Felicity 09.25.00

The only WB series that doesn’t regularly feature supernatural crimefighters, the college soap Felicity is now entering its third season. Originally, the story centered on Felicity, a young woman who, the summer after her graduation from high school, drops the plans her parents have for her in order to move and follow a boy she barely knows but has an incredible crush on to Manhattan. Now that the two characters have finally hooked up, the show is in for some dramatic changes. Recently, I went to the set of Felicity to interview Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams, the show’s producers, its ensemble cast, and Felicity herself, Keri Russell.

SARAH-JANE POTTS: (indicating an empty seat) This is Scott Foley.

TANGI MILLER: Hi, I’m Tangi Miller. And I made it to the third season.

SARAH-JANE: And there is Scott!

TANGI: Let Scott in. He was working…

SARAH-JANE: Join our group.

SCOTT FOLEY: I just got a break.

SARAH-JANE: We introduced you and everything.

FOLEY: Really? When I wasn’t here?

TANGI: We did.

SARAH-JANE: Yeah. You missed it.

FOLEY: Trust me, I have Tyra Banks on my mind so nothing else is gonna be in my head.

TANGI: Oh my God, he gets all the chicks.

Noel and Tyra Banks hook up?
FOLEY: That’s what I hear.

What happens with Noel and the Doritos Girl?
FOLEY: Hmmm… no more Doritos Girl? We don’t know. We don’t know. There’s a really interesting storyline, which I’m sure they’ve gone into. Probably not, since it’s about me.

TANGI: No, we haven’t. We just sat down.

This is the third season. The characters are entering their junior years. Next year, they will be seniors. Will the series have to end after that?
JJ ABRAMS: No, not really. Because Noel is a senior now and, personally, if we’re lucky enough to keep going, the year after college is in some ways a more exciting moment than the first year in college, you know? And I just think that it would be an amazing thing to see -- everything from the first place that the characters get, the jobs that they get. There are so many stories that I would love to do. We obviously hope it continues.

FOLEY: Noel is a senior this year. It’s possible I might not be back next year, I guess is what it says. No, I don’t know what is going to happen with Noel graduating. You have a smiley face tattooed on your knee.

TANGI: Oh my God. Dang.

FOLEY: Yeah. That’s something we haven’t tackled this year. We haven’t gotten into what Noel is gonna do when he graduates and where he’s gonna go. He’s talked a little bit about wanting to join a graphic design house or something to do with computers.

TANGI: I think he’s gonna move in with all these women and they’re gonna set up a commune.

FOLEY: Tyra Banks, Ali Landry, Amy Smart and Noel.

TANGI: You’d like that.

FOLEY: Are you kidding? It’d be amazing. So, we don’t know. But I think there’s endless opportunities with regards to where we want to put him or where they want to put him -- what direction they want him to go.

Have we seen the end of Felicity’s tape recordings with Sally?
MATT REEVES: We tried to open up the point-of-view stuff. We’ve done a few episodes in the past we called “docuventeries” where there was a lot of this sort of reality footage in the vein of The Real World which Sean had been making a documentary about his friends. The (Sally) tapes really were a way to get into Felicity’s head. To try to find a way to do that for the other characters, the idea came up that, well, we could use this video footage, the footage of Sean’s documentary, to get people to sort of have confessionals or talk about various things that are going on with them. We’ve talked about the idea of still returning to Sally at some point, but right now, we’re just focusing on how to use this sort of video footage to open up all the points-of-view. For the time being, you won’t be seeing it for awhile. Of the shows we’ve done so far, there’s none.

JJ: The last episode has some.

MATT: The last episode has some. Which I have not read yet.

JJ: Nor have I. You guys can come read it with us if you want.

TANGI: You know, I had forgotten about that. I like that.

FOLEY: I don’t miss it.

TANGI: You don’t miss it? I thought it was very cool. Not all the time. You don’t have to do it every episode. Not every episode. Like every three or four episodes.

FOLEY: It was a great introduction. First season. It was a great way to sort of get into the storyline. It was a great cheat, you know.

TANGI: Ohhhhh… I don’t think we should abandon Sally, though. She doesn’t have to go. She’s her friend.

FOLEY: Well, Sally’s not necessarily abandoned. She’s still there. She just doesn’t talk to her every episode.

SARAH-JANE: She has Ben to talk to now.

TANGI: No, but she doesn’t have to stop talking to… are you on his side?


SARAH-JANE: I’m not on any side! I’ll let the people decide.

FOLEY: Listen, we’ve all got our own opinions. You asked and I’m answering. That’s what I think. I don’t miss it. You realize if it’s not about me, I don’t like it. That’s the way I read a script: it’s my stuff and then filler, filler, filler, filler.

Keri, can you tell us what sort of turmoil Felicity encounters this year?
JJ: You can say “no.”

KERI RUSSELL: Hmmmm. Hm, hm, hm. Um, um, um, well, mostly what we’re dealing with right now is the Felicity and Ben dynamic. You know she’s had this fantasy image of what this person is and now she’s actually in a relationship with him and obviously that entails a lot bigger issues. There is an episode where she ends up doing something kind of crazy and wild, but jeopardizing the relationship.

The frat party incident?
KERI: Oh, we’ve heard. Oh. Oh. Oh.

JJ: Wait a minute.

It was in the press materials.
JJ: There definitely is a frat party incident.

KERI: So, uh, mostly it’s been dealing with what it’s like to be in a real relationship. And she’s living in this gigantic apartment with all the girls.

JJ: Amazingly a bigger space than your dorm room.

KERI: Amazingly. It’s huge!

JJ: Insane. Can you believe that? It’s definitely wish fulfillment.

TANGI: It’s like a four-bedroom apartment. Two-bedroom, I’m sorry. Molly and Felicity are in a room. And then Meghan and Elena.

So is Julie definitely gone?
TANGI: Hmmmm. We can’t say.

Well, you didn’t mention that she was bunking with anybody.
TANGI: I said who was sleeping in the rooms, not in the house. And that’s all I can say about that.

So, how much stuff are you privy to that you can’t talk about?
TANGI: They give us a list. Like a three-page list. They tell us what we’re not supposed to talk about and when it starts to get gray I go, “Help me out, guys!”

Okay. Well, JJ and Matt, what is happening with Julie?
JJ: We have a really great story. In fact, in the episode we’re working on right now, there’s a whole thing that involves her. We don’t want to ruin it, so we won’t tell you exactly what will happen with the character, but what we find out over the first chunk of episodes is the truth about what really happened to Julie over the summer.

The rumor mill has it that Amy Jo Johnson is unhappy about leaving the show…
JJ: In my experience, unless she is someone I don’t know, when I talk to her, she’s been, if anything, thrilled. She just did this movie with Gary Oldman. She’s in great spirits. It’s not like we don’t see her and talk to her. We are still working with Amy Jo. If she’s unhappy…

MATT: It’s not like she’s not going to be on the show. She’s just not going to be a regular all the way through.

Will there be situations with Julie and Sean?
GREG GRUNBERG: Absolutely. No, it’s not closed. It’s not closed at all. As a matter of fact…

AMANDA FOREMAN: Really? He’s my fake lover! He can’t be her fake lover!

GREG: Suddenly, I’m the stud on the show. No, there’s a storyline that she has a real challenging thing going on with her family that we’re learning about. Well, we’ll see. They won’t even tell us. We don’t know that far in advance.

Amanda and Greg, how do you think the relationship between your two characters will change them?
GREG: I hope that she starts to make me, you know, like I become a warlock or something. You know, because I mean Charmed does so well and we need some sort of magic on this show. (laughs)

SCOTT SPEEDMAN: God knows we need magic in the ratings.

GREG: Exactly. I don’t know. It would just be great to see Sean I think dress a bit more funky and kind of take more chances with things and maybe not…

AMANDA: (laughing) I don’t want you to dress funkyyyy.

SPEEDMAN: It would be funny.

AMANDA: Things have already changed for my character just because she’s able to be more vulnerable. There’s a more open side to the character than in the other seasons. I have more to do instead of just coming in, saying something mean and walking out.

GREG: Right. Plus, I’m pierced. Which is something different for my character. I can’t talk about where, but…(laughs)


GREG: Also, uh…since I was in the market the other day and someone said, “Oh, health scare, huh?” I guess I can break that. It’s in the TV Guide. There’s a health issue that I’m dealing with this year, which is really…

SPEEDMAN: …funny.

GREG: Really. It’s just hilarious! Woo-hoo! Yeah. The cardiograph is woop-woop-woop! No, it’s, for the first time, other than the relationship stuff, it’s really serious and we are heavily involved in that, so it’s real challenging.

Amanda, are we ever gonna find out what was in that box?
AMANDA: I had an idea what was in the box. But I don’t know. I should really ask what I can disclose. I can’t really talk about it.

GREG: Yeah, we can’t talk about it.

AMANDA: I actually got in trouble one time because I was talking to a reporter and I said something and JJ came in and said, “What are doing?! You can’t…!” Because he was in the next room and heard me. If he wasn’t here…

GREG: If he hears the word “box” right now, he’ll fly over the table.

AMANDA: They haven’t really been talking about it this season. I don’t know why. I asked about it the other day. I said, “I don’t know where the box is; it’s not in my new room.” And they said, “It’ll show up.” I mean, they sort of talked about it in The Twilight Zone episode, but that was a copout.

Scott Foley, what’s up with Noel and those crazy frosted tips in his hair?
FOLEY: Noel becomes this sort of anti-Noel and has spent the summer kind of exploring a different side of his personality, and he looks a little different. I was frustrated last year. I think, second season is hard for a lot of shows, but I feel completely different now than I did then. You know, I didn’t want to be a nice guy anymore, blahblahblah. Now I want to be a nice guy again. I love dressing like a dork and acting like a dork. But I like the change. I like the opportunity they gave me to play something that was out of character and different than what I and everybody who watched the show was used to.

Did you like your hair with the blond tips? Did it make you feel different?
FOLEY: A little tingly. No. I didn’t mind it. People dug it. Chicks dug it. The response was very favorable. The first time they saw me on set was the first time I had everything on and a lot of the crew guys didn’t recognize me or they thought I was a new dolly grip or something. And when they realized, they were like, “You look good. It’s good.” I mean, even the guys were like, “Alright. Way to go.” Which is a little strange.

I take it Noel actually return to school?
FOLEY: Yes, Noel focuses and finds his way. Somehow, through all the things that happen.

SARAH-JANE: Through all the women.

Will we see more of Ruby?
FOLEY: God, I hope so. Nothing’s planned yet.

TANGI: “God I hope so.” (Laughs) Oh, God.

SARAH-JANE: You’re bad.

FOLEY: I do hope so. Amy Smart, who played Ruby last year -- actually it was a really hard year for me, and she made it a lot easier. She kind of set me straight and got me focused, and we had a great time together. So, selfishly, I hope she comes back. For the storyline, I think it would be interesting to see her back and see the baby -- which is not Noel’s -- it would be a good twist with the Doritos chick and Tyra and all these other things. It would be interesting to have a bunch of hot women around Noel. It would not be a bad thing, right? Not that they’re not around all the time (indicating his co-stars)

And all the guys live together, too?
FOLEY: It sort of works out that way, yeah. One thing leads to another and we all end up at the loft. Sean and Ben. Javier does not live with us. That would make things very interesting, having Javier and Samuel there. And who else? Richard. Richard is not there. Richard is in the dorm this year. Played by Robert Patrick Benedict. Who is awesome.

From the season opener, it looks like you and Richard are pretty tight this year.
FOLEY: We have sex.


Tangi, what sorts of things can we expect from Elena? Is she going to be tempted to stray from Tracy?
TANGI: I am going to be tempted in a wonderful way. Elena is definitely having some issues. And it’s not just the sex. As much as I love Elena, I have to say that she was really tough and strong at the beginning, and then I think the producers and writers and stuff wanted to explore a different side, which has been fun for me because my character has fallen in love. “I want to deal with something that I can’t handle…” but I wasn’t talking about a boyfriend! I mean every woman gets a little googly when she falls in love. I’m excited about what she gets to do. I think it’s a positive message to send in terms of the story itself with a character that’s had sex in love with a character who doesn’t want to have sex because of religious reasons or whatever reason, they can still be in that relationship. But I think it’s important to show the difficulties that Elena has with it and that anyone would have, even if it was switched the other way around. I think you have to treat it very carefully.

Keri, are you protective of Felicity and sometimes wary of the situations the producers put her in?
KERI: Yeah. It’s funny, I think everyone kind of has an idea of what she should be and shouldn’t be. These guys are great. They always let me voice concerns. But I think I’m too protective. If it were up to me, nothing would happen. She’d just have a very boring life. I’m like, “She can’t do that. She can’t do that.” But part of the idea of making the show every week is that you know she gets into these sticky, weird situations and has to find herself out -- and hopefully in a redeeming way.

JJ: There was actually a burden when it was a Felicity-centered show, to make every week dramatic enough to warrant an hour of television time and ultimately it was an unrealistic thing where I don’t think every college student--

KERI: Goes through all that.

JJ: Right. It would end up feeling false and like, “Okay, now we’re throwing this at her.”

Is that alleviated by making the show more of an ensemble?
JJ: We’re working on Episode 9 right now and looking back we’re saying, “Wow. Look where we are now.” 9 would have never happened had this not happened in 8, had this not happened in 7 and 6. The stories are consequential and they’re not all Felicity A-stories. This year, we’re doing very strong Elena stories, very strong Julie stories, you know, Meghan and Sean are dating; they’re hysterical together; the new character of Molly, Sarah-Jane Potts, we’re doing a story with her that involves Ben and Felicity. So while Felicity is crucial and integral to every episode, it’s not like every week The Thing is happening to her.

FOLEY: JJ always lies, first of all. You can just discount everything he says.

TANGI: It’s nice to really have some of your own problems and your own situations. Of course, I’m gonna be there for Felicity, Elena wants to be there for Felicity, but Elena also has a life, she has a boyfriend, she is of her own, and it’s nice to explore that.

FOLEY: You’re definitely gonna see a lot more group scenes this year than you have in the past. Sometimes they’re a pain in the ass to shoot when you have ten people in a five page scene that you’ve gotta get done by noon, but that’s what people wanna see. According to JJ.

TANGI: The liar.

SARAH-JANE: You need that for the show. You need to start exploring other people’s personalities because otherwise you have no evolution and it’s all one person’s responsibility, and it can become boring. I’m not saying that in a bad way. If you made a show about me and it was just me on my own…

FOLEY: Oh, come on. That’s a different story. You’re boring.


Sarah-Jane you play Molly, a new character on the show. Can you give us a little insight into who the character is and what her dynamic will be?
SARAH-JANE: My character comes in in the third episode and she’s nuts; she’s crazy; she’s totally left of the middle. Her mom’s a psychic. She’s very, very spiritual. She’s totally free.

TANGI: She has twenty-three tattoos.

SARAH-JANE: She has a lot of tattoos. She’s just a very different type than they’ve ever, ever experienced on this show. She’s English first of all. She’s studying fashion and photography. And she has the imagination of a seven-year-old. Everything to her is how children see it. She’s incredibly sweet and very, very innocent. That doesn’t mean that she hasn’t experienced a lot in her life. She just chooses to take it all in a very positive way. I think she freaks people out a bit. She has a line she says, “I know you all think I’m crazy, but I’m not.”

TANGI: And we all go, “Uh-huh.” She tells us to all get up because the energy is kind of bad and we’re like, “Okay.”

SARAH-JANE: She goes, “Everybody, we have to switch places because the energy in here is really, really horrible.” And they all think she’s too weird and never speak to her again.

TANGI: That’s not true! That’s not true. She’s a bit of a hippie. She’s a sweet hippie.

SARAH-JANE: I think there’s a little some tension between Molly and Meghan.

TANGI: Yeah, because they are like the opposites of each other.

SARAH-JANE: They’re totally opposite. One’s into witches and the other’s into faeries. And I also think because I room in the same room as Felicity. I think that Meghan feels that Molly is taking Felicity away. I think she’s like, “Who’s this new girl?”

Were you familiar with the show in England, Sarah-Jane? How did you get the role?
SARAH-JANE: The show’s not on in England, so I never watched it. But they gave me fifteen videotapes before I came over.

TANGI: Learn it!

SARAH-JANE: Learn it! Know who these people are. So I did that.

FOLEY: Oh, tell about the time you read for the part. Oh, you didn’t.

SARAH-JANE: Oh, you’re funny. I just promised lots of sexual favors for the part of Molly and they said, “Okay, we’ll put you in the show.” But the only drawback to that is now I have to do it every week. JJ makes me do it every week.

FOLEY: It’s contractual.


TANGI: Oh, My God.

SARAH-JANE: I just entered that situation where I probably should have never started.

TANGI: Oh, My God. Forgive her for she knows not what she says.

FOLEY: Trust me, this will come out wrong, when that gets printed…

Felicity is a show that appeals mostly to young women and teenage girls. Keri, do you feel a responsibility to them not only in the way Felicity is portrayed and the types of situations she finds herself in, but in the way you behave as a real person?
KERI: Humm. Hm, hm, hm. I’d be lying if I said I don’t recognize that people on TV are an influence, but at the same time, it’s hard because you still want to live your own life. You don’t want your own personal, private life ruled by the fact that you are this person. You know, it’s bizarre. I go to get my coffee and people take pictures of me or I see pictures and I’m like, “That’s not fair. That’s just me going to get my coffee in the morning.” But I do recognize it. I keep it more as a peripheral thing, but I think Felicity is a great role model. I think she’s very admirable, and she’s smart and funny and self-deprecating and all those great things.

Matt and JJ, as the producers of the show, do you feel responsible to those teen viewers?
MATT: Sure. Obviously a lot of people who watch the show relate to her and she definitely is a role model. There are a lot of things that we’ve looked at before we’ve done them and thought, “You know, there’s too much responsibility here to not do the right thing.” So it’s affected the storylines in a huge way.

JJ: For Felicity, we just want to make sure that she’s taking risks, she’s taking chances and if she does something stupid -- like takes too many Jell-o shots at the frat party and ends up in a compromising situation -- that there are real consequences to it. I also think it’s not just Felicity. I mean, it’s all the characters. For example, Donald Faison -- who’s in this new movie Remember the Titans and he’s amazing -- he plays Tracy, a virgin on the show and we have a storyline coming up where we really didn’t want and don’t want the impression that if you’re a virgin, you lose your girlfriend. So how do we do a story where Elena possibly cheats on Tracy without it being that? You have to make it clear that the reason these things happen is not because she’s not getting sex from him. It has to be about a bigger issue. So that kind of stuff is important for young men as well. For the six young men who watch.

KERI: It’s interesting, JJ, because on the last two flights I’ve been on, teenage boys who are like sixteen -- by the way, aren’t they supposed to be shy? -- like, two different flights, I swear to God -- one, the boy came up to me and there was some magazine article with my picture in it, he had actually cut it out and put it on the note, under my face was like this body, it was actually really charming, he was like “Do you want to go out with me? Or my friend? Whatever.” I don’t know, I’m like I would never be brave enough to come up to someone, like come up to my seat, “Here you go. Think about it.” You know you’re gonna have to see me when you get off the plane. It’s like he’s expecting me to go, “You know what? I will. Where do you want to go? You know what? I’ll pick you up.”

MATT: I sent a letter like that to Marie Osmond when I was a kid.

KERI: Realllly! Matt, no you did not!

MATT: I wanted to marry her.

KERI: Marrrieee Osmondddd!

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