Felicity Huffman Is Never Gonna Escape the Shadow of Operation Varsity Blues

I understand that we are all gossips and that celeb drama is juicy, but Huffman is never going to not get asked about the scandal, and it's making me pity her.

Felicity Huffman Is Never Gonna Escape the Shadow of Operation Varsity Blues
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“Yes. I walk into the room with it,” Felicity Huffman told the Guardian in an interview about the new play she’s starring in. “I did it. It’s black and white.” Of course, she’s referring to the 2019 Operation Varsity Blues scandal where she was found guilty of paying $15,000 to a fake charity for her daughter’s SAT scores to get a healthy little bump. As a result, she spent 11 days in prison, paid a $30,000 fine, and was sentenced to 250 hours of community service. All in all, it was a fairly light ruling, though it seems her real punishment is having to address it for the rest of her life.

Since being charged four years ago, Huffman has taken responsibility for her actions. “I am in full acceptance of my guilt and with deep regret and shame over what I have done,” she said in an issued statement at the time of the verdict. After a stretch of silence on the matter, she spoke with ABC Eyewitness News in December 2023 about joining the board of New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides support to formerly incarcerated women readjusting to and re-entering the outside world. I feel like we’ve gotten good, thorough responses from her and it’s now ripe time to move on from the matter.

Huffman’s new role as Paige, a “manic, liberated mother of a transgender son” as the Guardian puts it, in playwright Tyler Mac’s Hir was the impetus for the interview. The play opens February 15 at the Park Theater in London and is Huffman’s U.K. stage debut. Written in the ‘90s (but not produced until 2014), the play has been put on over 70 times with trans-masc and nonbinary actors in the lead role. Mac explained that both Huffman’s and Paige’s “troubles are all about how afraid she was and how much she loved her child,” making her perfect for the role. But other than that connection, it’s not entirely clear why this four-year-old scandal continues to follow her so closely or why a quote about it led the entire interview.

I understand that we are all gossips and that celeb drama is juicy, but for Huffman to once again address that she is guilty for something she’s admitted to and served time for feels tired? Maybe it’s just her own PR team’s strategy to drum up speculative interest in the new play? Seeing as she doesn’t hesitate to turn down discussions of every other semi-salacious question asked of her, it comes across as super strange that she keeps hitting these worn-out talking points about Varsity Blues. “Yeah, I don’t really wanna go into it,” she replies to a question about her friend David Mamet being a Trump supporter and “I have no memory of that” in response to criticism from trans actor Alexandra Billings who confronted Huffman about stealing the lead role in Transamerica from her. Yes, this play is her comeback after a couple years of lying low. But this comeback feels really bogged down by an air of guilt and performance of self-effacement.

I can’t figure out who’s leading the continued push on this topic—the public or her team. Or perhaps it’s an evenly distributed effort. But it’s creating a bizarrely hapless portrait of a woman frozen by the missteps of her past. Huffman described the ordeal as if her “old life died and [she] died with it.” Intense!! Dramatic!! And worst of all, it’s making me pity her! It’s like someone who over-apologizes about something and you end up having to prioritize their comfort because of how bad they feel. Does that make sense? I hope this wealthy and well-positioned woman can figure out a way forward without this haunting her forever. So us less-wealthy and less well-positioned people can stop hearing about it.

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