Share

‘Varsity Blues’ mom Felicity Huffman makes TV return but may never hit ‘peak celebrity status’ again: expert


Join Fox News for access to this content

Plus special access to select articles and other premium content with your account – free of charge.

By entering your email and pushing continue, you are agreeing to Fox News’ Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which includes our Notice of Financial Incentive.

Please enter a valid email address.

Having trouble? Click here.

Felicity Huffman is returning to TV in her first significant role since her involvement in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal in 2019.

But experts say she may never achieve her pre-scandal status.

“Felicity Huffman and her team have done a good job timing her comeback, selecting her roles, determining when she’ll speak publicly and crafting what she’ll say. She may not ever rise to peak celebrity status again, but she’s likely to find a largely welcoming and forgiving environment,” Kara Schmiemann, senior director of Red Banyan PR, told Fox News Digital.

Huffman is making a three-episode guest appearance on the Paramount+ series, “Criminal Minds: Evolution.”

Felicity Huffman is returning to TV with a three-episode arc on the Paramount+ series “Criminal Minds: Evolution.” (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

FELICITY HUFFMAN WEARS CARNEGIE MELLON SWEATSHIRT AFTER VARSITY BLUES COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL

She’ll play Dr. Jill Gideon, ex-wife of Mandy Patinkin’s character, Jason Gideon, a therapist involved in the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit).

“I can tell you that she was deeply involved at the beginning of the BAU,” Huffman told TV Line. 

“She and Rossi [Joe Mantegna’s character] and her husband were the pioneers. Then she got divorced from Gideon because it wasn’t working, but they stayed friends, and she even kept being his therapist,” she continued.

Patinkin’s character was killed off in season 3 of the series, and Huffman said, “That’s when she went, ‘OK, I’m done, I’m out.’ She just couldn’t be around it.”

Apart from a one-episode guest stint on ABC’s “The Good Doctor” in 2023, Huffman has otherwise been off television since 2019, when the college admissions scandal made headlines.

“It’s clear the scandal did impact her career. She didn’t work for some time, and she kept an incredibly low profile, which is exactly what we would recommend when facing a public relations crisis,” Schmiemann said.

Felicity Huffman posing on the red carpet

Huffman has been away from TV for the better part of five years after her involvement in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner)

‘OPERATION VARSITY BLUES’ DIRECTOR EXPLAINS WHY HE DIDN’T INCLUDE LORI LOUGHLIN, FELICITY HUFFMAN TRANSCRIPTS

She continued, “The general public has a short attention span and memory, but you do need to put significant time and distance between a crisis and a comeback if you expect to be able to return to the spotlight. Otherwise, anything positive you do could be tarnished by an unforgiving audience, who might be spewing hate-filled commentary and feedback.”

Brian Balthazar of Balthazar Entertainment agreed, saying, “On top of the brief jail time, the bad press surrounding her put a pause on new roles, which was only exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic and the writer and actor strikes put on the industry itself. But I think we all have seen that people have a pretty short memory for scandal in today’s age.”

WATCH: FELICITY HUFFMAN GETS EARLY RELEASE FROM FEDERAL PRISON SENTENCE

Huffman had a breakout role as Lynette Scavo on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” scoring two Emmy nominations and one win for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series during her time on the show.

In 2005, she was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in “Transamerica,” playing a trans woman on a cross-country road trip with her long-lost son.

Marcia Cross, Vanessa Williams, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria Parker, Teri Hatcher promotional photo for The Desperate Housewives

Huffman rose to fame on “Desperate Housewives,” winning an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. (Matthew Rolston /Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

NICOLLETTE SHERIDAN CALLS FORMER CO-STAR FELICITY HUFFMAN’S ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN COLLEGE SCAM ‘DISGRACEFUL’

She earned an additional three Emmy nominations for her performance on “American Crime,” an anthology crime drama on ABC.

In 2019, she starred in two films, “Otherhood” and “Tammy’s Always Dying,” as well as the critically acclaimed Netflix series, “When They See Us.”

The New York-born star married fellow actor William H. Macy in 1997, and the couple share two daughters, Sophia and Georgia.

Then the Varsity Blues scandal broke.

Felicity Huffman in front of the courthouse in a blue shirt and black blazer

Huffman was implicated, along with dozens of other wealthy parents, including “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, in the college admissions scandal. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER

Huffman, along with “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and other prominent parents, were charged to varying degrees with paying college consultant Rick Singer to bribe and lie to athletic departments and alter test results on exams.

The “Desperate Housewives” star pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She confessed to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. She also considered doing the same for her younger daughter but decided against it. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Huffman said, “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.”

She continued, “I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy in court

Huffman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and confessed to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. (Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

JOHN STAMOS SPEAKS OUT ABOUT LORI LOUGHLIN AFTER VARSITY BLUES SCANDAL: ‘SHE WENT TO F—ING JAIL, MAN’

The actress added, “My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.”

She was sentenced to 14 days at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, but was released after 11 days.

In addition to serving in prison, Huffman also received one year of probation, was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine.

In 2020, it was announced that Huffman would star in a comedy pilot for ABC, inspired by Susan Savage, owner of a Triple-A baseball team, the Sacramento River Cats.

Felicity Huffman

The Oscar-nominee apologized for her actions, spent 11 days in prison, received one year of probation, was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine. (Getty Images)

FELICITY HUFFMAN HELPING INMATES REENTER SOCIETY: ‘SHE’S BEEN VERY HELPFUL’

It was to be her big TV return after the scandal, but the pilot didn’t get picked up for a series.

In a 2024 interview with The Guardian, Huffman said, “I did a pilot for ABC recently that didn’t get picked up. It’s been hard. Sort of like your old life died, and you died with it. I’m lucky enough to have a family and love and means, so I had a place to land.”

The prior year, in 2023, she made her appearance on “The Good Doctor” in March.

Later that year, she spoke about the scandal for the first time with ABC 7, trying to explain her decision-making.

Felicity Huffman wearing glasses

In 2020, it was announced that Huffman would star in a comedy pilot for ABC, but the show never came to fruition. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING? CLICK HERE FOR MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future,” Huffman said. “And so it was sort of like my daughter’s future, which meant I had to break the law.”

She explained that Singer, who masterminded the fraud, had told her after a year working together that her daughter wasn’t going to get into any of the colleges she wanted.

“And I believed him. And so when he slowly started to present the criminal scheme, it seems like – and I know this seems crazy at the time – but that was my only option to give my daughter a future. And I know hindsight is 20/20, but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it. So, I did it.”

Huffman’s home was raided by the FBI, leaving her in shock as she recalled, “They came into my home. They woke my daughters up at gunpoint. Again, nothing new to the Black and brown community. Then they put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me, and I asked if I could get dressed.”

WATCH: MARTHA STEWART MOCKS FELICITY HUFFMAN’S PRISON STYLE

FELICITY HUFFMAN ‘HOPEFUL’ TO RETURN TO ACTING NEXT YEAR AFTER COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL, REPORT SAYS

She added, “I thought it was a hoax. I literally turned to one of the FBI people in a flak jacket and a gun, and I went, ‘Is this a joke?’”

The Oscar-nominee reiterated her apology to “the academic community” and “the students and the families that sacrifice and work really hard to get to where they are going legitimately.”

Balthazar noted the scandal isn’t the only factor at work in Huffman’s career.

Felicity Huffman walking in a white shirt

In her first interview about her arrest and jail time, Huffman told ABC 7 she thought the FBI raiding her house was some kind of prank. (gotpap/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

FELICITY HUFFMAN’S DAUGHTER GETS ACCEPTED TO TOP UNIVERSITY FOLLOWING COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL: REPORTS

“The sad truth is, there still remains a disappointing scarcity of strong roles for women over 60. It pains me that it’s still the case, but there are a lot of talented women in their 60s and older all trying to land one of what is a limited number of great roles. So, if Felicity doesn’t make what’s considered a huge comeback, it may not be the scandal that’s the cause but the lack of roles in the industry itself,” he said.

Kathy Fielder, CEO of THRIVE by Kathy Fielder, suggested Huffman “may not want a full comeback.”

“However, the fact that Felicity is acting again is indicative of her desire to once again be in the limelight, which could be for a multitude of reasons on which it is difficult to speculate. I do believe it takes outrageous courage to put oneself back in the forefront and put yourself ‘out there,’” she said.

Fielder added, “When you think about what that looks like for someone with a strong presence and in the limelight, it takes great fortitude to walk back into public life after such a life-altering event.”

In one of her most recent public sightings, Huffman wore a Carnegie-Mellon college sweatshirt, where her daughter enrolled.

In one of her most recent public sightings, Huffman wore a Carnegie-Mellon college sweatshirt, where her daughter enrolled. (MEGA/GC Images)

NETFLIX’S COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL DOCUMENTARY DEBUTS FIRST TRAILER

In early 2024, Huffman did some stage work in London, and admitted to The Guardian that the stigma of the scandal follows her without question.

“I walk into the room with it. I did it. It’s black and white,” she said.

The 61-year-old later added she was “grateful” to be there but was “still processing.”

“I’m not in any way whitewashing what I did, but some people have been kind and compassionate, others have not,” Huffman said.

Huffman’s role on “The Good Doctor” almost led to a spin-off, “The Good Lawyer,” but that fell apart during the actor’s strike. Deadline reported that the series had been set for spring 2024, but with the strike delay, they opted to pass to make room in their schedule for returning series.

Felicity Huffman and Freddie Highmore in a scene from The Good Doctor

Huffman’s role on “The Good Doctor” almost led to a spin-off, “The Good Lawyer,” but the actor’s strikes caused too long of a delay, per Deadline. (Jeff Weddell/ABC via Getty Images)

FELICITY HUFFMAN, LORI LOUGHLIN MOCKED BY FELLOW CELEBRITIES OVER COLLEGE ADMISSIONS CHEATING SCANDAL

The “Criminal Minds” role is currently set for three episodes, but Huffman’s husband told Entertainment Tonight it was a good experience for the actress.

“It was great! I went to visit her on the set a couple of times… and she had a great time,” Macy told the outlet. “I think she did a great job, too. I’m really glad she’s working.”

Macy and Huffman will work together on season two of the FX series “Accused” later this year, according to Deadline.

The premise of “Accused” features different crime stories told from the defendant’s point of view.

William H Macy and Felicity Huffman sitting together and smiling

Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, are both slated to appear on season 2 of the FX series “Accused” this year. (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

As of now, no other future projects are listed on Huffman’s IMDb page.

“People can certainly have a blind spot for A-Listers, ‘America’s Sweethearts’ and heartthrobs because we feel we know them on a personal level and refuse to believe they can be guilty of anything ‘too taboo,’ Schmiemann said. “This is because we have a heightened exposure to these individuals, and as a society, we conflate the characters they play with their actual human character. 

“B-Listers and unknowns don’t always get that luxury. There are some crimes that are societally unforgivable, even for the most-loved celebrity, but that list is much shorter than you’d think.”

Fielder said it would all take time, adding, “It takes courage to put yourself in a position of vulnerability to do what you are passionate about and love, and if you exercise patience and honesty, you gain respect from a wider audience.” 

Close up of smiling Felicity Huffman

“It takes courage to put yourself in a position of vulnerability to do what you are passionate about and love, and if you exercise patience and honesty, you gain respect from a wider audience,” Fielder said. (Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

“I think Felicity did a pretty good job expressing her embarrassment and remorse. And I do think that while a lot of people out there were appalled by the act of privilege, I think there are also a lot of people who, if only silently to themselves, would admit that they might have tried to do the same thing for their own daughter if they had the means,” Balthazar said. 

He added, “What I’d really like to know is how her daughter feels about what happened, and how they managed that, because her daughter’s opinion, and not the public’s opinion, is probably the one that matters most to her.”



Source link