Most people of a certain age around the turn of the century are probably familiar with Felicity, a WB series starring Keri Russell (The Americans) that aired between 1998 and 2002. It has been hailed by Time magazine as one of the 100 Best TV Series of all time. It’s been called one of the best shows set in schools of all time, and Keri Russell’s character, Felicity Porter, is regarded by some as one of the best TV characters of all time.
The series, however, has one major mark against it (aside from the series’ last four episodes, which involved a witch’s spell and time travel). After the series’ second season, Keri Russell cut her hair, and legend has it that her shorter hair resulted in a drastic ratings drop for the sophomore series. That’s actually a myth — the series moved to Sunday nights and the ratings dropped even before Russell cut her hair — but because the ratings drop and the cut hair happened around the same time, the haircut is often scapegoated. In fact, TV Guide has called it one of the 25 Biggest Blunders in TV history.
Here’s the deal: It was all J.J. Abrams’ fault. The director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Mission Impossible III, Star Trek, and Super 8, the guy who created Lost and Alias and Fringe, as well as the Cloverfield series. Yes, that guy. J.J. Abrams, one of the most successful directors ever, botched a hairstyle choice that would overshadow what was otherwise a terrific debut series, Felicity, which Abrams created along with Matt Reeves.
“So, who chose to have a new hairdo?” Dax Shepard asked Keri Russell on his Armchair Expert podcast this week.
“J.J. and Matt,” Russell says defiantly. “When we were wrapping up season one and putting everything in boxes, there was a wig that was like a little boy’s wig or some sh*t, and I put it on as a joke and [hair & make-up] took a picture of me. And they said, ‘You know what would be really funny? Send this to J.J. and Matt over the break [as a joke] and just say, ‘Isn’t this so cute?’ to give them a panic attack.”
And so she did. She took a Polaroid and sent it to Reeves and Abrams. Meanwhile, over the summer, while she was vacationing, she received a phone call. “It’s J.J. and Matt. They’re not laughing about how funny the joke is. They were like, ‘Would you? We saw that picture and thought that’s what every college girl does — they break up with their girlfriend and they cut their hair.”
Russell said sure, and the rest is history. They filmed Russell having her hair cut on the show and still, she gets blamed for cutting her hair over the summer because, as Russell tells Shepard, an executive at the WB made a joke in a speech that, “‘we’ll never let anyone cut their hair over the summer again.'”
“And then it became my problem,” Russell continued. “Grown people — I had a mom who came up to me at a mall at that time and said, ‘You were so pretty until you cut your hair.’ And I was like, Oh thanks?’ But also, being a kid in that storm, I was already rebelling in my own mind and pushing it all away, so in a way I was like, ‘F**k you. I don’t f**king care. I cut my hair!”
And that’s the real story about why Keri Russell cut her hair. It should be noted, however, that though the ratings did drop, the show nevertheless ran for four successful seasons and helped to launch the careers of Russell, Scott Speedman, Scott Foley, Jennifer Garner, Amy Smart, and Michael Pena, not to mention J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves.
(Via Armchair Expert)