We all know how things went south last week for actress Lori Loughlin (“When Calls the Heart”) in the college admissions bribery scandal. Fired from the Hallmark Channel for her alleged role in the scandal, she has lost all of her gigs with Hallmark parent Crown Media, as well as her role in Netflix’s “Fuller House.”
But what of Felicity Huffman, the other television actress who was arrested for her alleged role in the admissions bribery scandal? Netflix faces a thorny problem when it debuts its Central Park Five limited series “When They See Us,” scheduled to air May 31.
Huffman, an Emmy winner for “Desperate Housewives” and frequent nominee for the socially conscious ABC series “American Crime,” is playing Linda Fairstein, the famed former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office from 1976 to 2002. Her office supervised the prosecution of the five young men arrested — and later exonerated — for beating and raping a Central Park jogger in 1989.
Does anybody else see a disconnect here? Is Netflix prepared to withstand the avalanche of chortling that will no doubt greet this performance on social media? Seeing Huffman on screen now in anything except a reality series about celebrities who allegedly broke the law will take viewers interested in Ava DuVernay’s take on the controversial trial, and resulting $40 million settlement, out of the moment.
Netflix has chosen not to comment on the matter, merely saying production has wrapped. But we know how the streaming giant reacted when Kevin Spacey faced sexual assault allegations in 2017 — he was fired from “House of Cards” and the company shelved his film “Gore” about writer and historian Gore Vidal. Additionally, Spacey’s scenes in Ridley Scott’s 2017 film “All the Money in the World,” in which he played tycoon J. Paul Getty, were reshot with 88-year-old Christopher Plummer assuming the role.
While the charges against Huffman — conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud — are not as sensational as those leveled against Spacey, she was arrested as part of a yearlong investigation involving 33 parents and is scheduled to appear March 29 in a Boston court for a preliminary hearing.
Her timing could not have been worse, coming when American parents are up in arms about the rising costs of college education. She (along with her husband, “Shameless” star William H. Macy, who was not arrested) sends a clear message of Hollywood entitlement to those who have admired her for her participation in the Women’s March and other causes.
Hollywood hypocrites are nothing new, of course, but the culture suddenly has no time for them. It will be interesting to see how the trial impacts Huffman’s career, even if Netflix does not in some way alter her scenes in “When They See Us,” because her reputation has taken a beating.
The Central Park Five show may be the last we see for a while of the one “Desperate Housewife” who truly lived up to the name.
By Robert Rorke