From 1998 to 2002, for what would turn out to be a fitting four years, J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves presented the entire college experience of Felicity Porter at the fictitious, but most definitely based on NYU, University of New York, with Felicity. Here are 16 things you might not have known about the hit WB series.
1. J.J. ABRAMS GOT THE IDEA FOR THE SHOW WHILE ON HIS HONEYMOON.
Abrams, who at the time was best known as the screenwriter of Regarding Henry and Armageddon, was vacationing with his new bride in Bali in 1996 when he randomly thought of the name of a former high school classmate. With the name "Felicity" stuck in his brain, he thought up a coming-of-age drama about a girl named Felicity. After talking it over with childhood friend/filmmaker Matt Reeves, they decided to pitch it as a TV series.
2. KERI RUSSELL WAS ALMOST TOO GOOD LOOKING TO PLAY FELICITY.
Russell put her hair in a bun and wore a baggy sweater and jeans to the audition, for fear that she would be cast as the much more minor character, Felicity's “tragically beautiful” high school best friend Maya instead. It turns out her fears were justified, in a way. Abrams told The Los Angeles Times in 1998 that Russell “was so pretty, I thought there was no way she could play the part. And then she started reading and was just funny as hell. And if you're funny, I don't care, you win."
3. SCOTT SPEEDMAN STARTED WORK ON FELICITY THREE DAYS AFTER ARRIVING IN LOS ANGELES.
Speedman was living on his mother’s couch in Toronto when he sent a videotaped audition to Abrams and Reeves, after learning that they were still looking to cast the character of Ben Covington, Felicity's high school crush-turned-college boyfriend. So he got on a plane to Los Angeles and "basically J.J. and Matt were the first people I met with," Speedman recalled to Movieline. "We were at the Chateau Marmont for dinner. Two days later, I was working on that pilot ... It was trial by fire, and a hugely special time in my life. I didn't know anything from anything, but I knew this show was good, and I knew these guys were talented."
4. ABRAMS AND GREG GRUNBERG HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER SINCE THEY WERE THREE YEARS OLD.
Abrams considers Grunberg his “lucky charm.” Grunberg has appeared in a slew of Abrams shows and movies. He played Sean Blumberg on Felicity.
5. NYU WOULDN'T GIVE THE PRODUCERS PERMISSION TO USE THE SCHOOL'S NAME.
The University gave permission to shows like Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and NYPD Blue to use its name. Yet in the case of Felicity, the renowned university feared the possibility of storylines that might involve drugs or suicide, and so declined the request to let producers use the school's name.
6. JULIE EMRICK WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TO BE A DANCER.
It was only after Amy Jo Johnson, who had played The Pink Ranger on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, was cast as Felicity's friend Julie that she informed the producers she didn’t know how to dance. When Abrams was played some of Johnson’s musical compositions, he figured she could be a musician instead.
7. NOELCRANE.COM WAS—AND STILL IS—A FUNCTIONING WEBSITE.
It was written as if Scott Foley’s character was actually behind the keyboard. On May 8, 1999, the main page text was this:
Your first couple years of college can
be a pretty scary time.
When I was a Freshman I thought browsers
were the people who dog-eared the art books
in the college bookstore. Back then, 9600
was a fast modem. Today I'm a Sophomore
and it's already wind in our sails.
Are you a Kelvin Hall resident?
Live on the 7th Floor?
Got a problem?
Come see me, I'm the R.A.
Plus, the 6th & 8th floor RAs
didn't even do a web page.
So what's it going to be?
Ownership of the webpage has changed over time.
8. JAVIER’S ACCENT WAS IAN GOMEZ MIMICKING A TRANSVESTITE JUNKIE HE KNEW WHEN HE WAS A KID.
Gomez’s mother was a therapist for inmates at a female prison. During her time there, she befriended a transvestite who would often visit them at home. Gomez remembered the voice years later and used it for a character of his named Enrique in Second City skits. He borrowed the voice again at his Felicity audition.
9. UCLA STUDENTS WERE PARTLY TO BLAME FOR A TONAL SHIFT IN SEASON TWO.
UCLA sophomores admitted to Felicity's writers and producers that they were directionless—cutting their hair, feeling unattractive, and having sex with people they didn’t particularly care about. The first five episodes of the second season of Felicity reflected these students’ experiences, which Abrams admitted didn’t make for good television, and the show made an effort to become more focused after the slip-up.
10. KERI RUSSELL CUTTING HER HAIR WAS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SHOW'S LOWER RATINGS.
The president of WB Entertainment Susanne Daniels said that Russell’s haircut was one reason for the ratings decline at the start of the second season (the show also moved to Sunday nights against stiffer competition). Russell only cut her hair after she pulled a prank on the producers the previous summer by sending a picture of herself wearing a short-haired wig without informing them it was a wig. After they stopped freaking out, the creatives decided it would be a good idea for the character. The haircut however was given so much blame that network executives asked Russell to put hair extensions or a wig on. She declined to do so. "I think it turned some audience away, in particular men and some women," Daniels said.
11. SPEEDMAN LIVED UP TO HIS LAST NAME.
Before scenes, Speedman ran a lap around the stage to get prepared.
12. JOHNSON LEFT THE SHOW FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF HER MOTHER.
After two seasons as Julie Emrick, Johnson asked Abrams if she could leave following the passing of her mother. In 2012, Johnson said that "in hindsight, I wouldn't have asked to go. I mean, I don't regret anything, but at the same time if I did it again I wouldn't have asked to leave Felicity."
13. FRUSTRATION WITH THE LIMITS OF THE STORYTELLING POSSIBILITIES ON FELICITY SPARKED THE IDEA FOR ALIAS.
Abrams gradually started to ask the Felicity writers “What if Felicity were a spy?”, so this way he believed every episode of the show could have high stakes. When ABC asked him to come up with a “young, female-driven” show, he pitched them Alias, about a young woman in grad school who’s also a spy.
14. THE NETWORK PRESIDENT THOUGHT SEASON FOUR’S CREATIVE DOWNTURN WAS ABRAMS'S FAULT.
Jordan Levin claimed that Felicity had "creatively suffered a bit" because Abrams wasn’t heavily involved during the senior year, as he was working on the first season of Alias. The WB announced that Felicity wouldn’t be renewed in February 2002, three months before the series finale aired.
15. THEY HAD FELICITY TRAVEL THROUGH TIME BECAUSE THE WB ORDERED FIVE EXTRA EPISODES.
The final season was plotted for 17 episodes, culminating with Felicity Porter’s graduation from the University of New York. When there was suddenly another five hours to fill, they decided to show the audience what would happen if Felicity picked Noel over Ben.
16. GRUNBERG WAS TALKING ABOUT HIS FELLOW ACTORS IN HIS SPEECH IN THE SERIES FINALE.
Knowing that Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” would be playing over the toast his character gave during Noel’s wedding reception in the closing moments of the series, Grunberg used the opportunity to address his longtime co-stars, stating: “Scotty Speedman, it’s been such a pleasure working with you … And Foley, you’re just a jerk and I love you … And Keri Russell, I’ll miss you forever.” It was the last time Foley saw the cast together.