Actress Felicity Huffman is set to star in a baseball comedy series on ABC. This announcement comes just a little over a year after Huffman was involved in the highly publicized 2019 college admissions scandal, also known as the Operation Varsity Blues. Under the guise of charitable donations, the actress paid ringleader William “Rick” Singer $15,000 to have someone “proctor and correct” her eldest daughter’s College Board SAT test. After her arrest, Huffman pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud” and was sentenced to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service with a supervised one year release.
The Desperate Housewives actress took full responsibility for her actions, showing both remorse and accountability.
“I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me…I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility…and will accept the consequences … I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” Huffman said.
Huffman then went further in her apology to the educational community.
“I want to apologize to them, and especially, 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.”
After serving her sentence — which was reduced to 11 days as the prison had a policy to not release inmates on weekends — Huffman remains focused on community service, her family and returning to her career.
It seems that Huffman’s goals are working out for her as on top of her 250 hours serving two LA-based programs — A New Way of Life, which helps bolster formerly incarcerated women and The Teen Project, an addiction treatment center — as she landed a leading role in an untitled ABC comedy. Based on Susan Savage, the owner of the Triple A baseball team the Sacramento River Cats, Huffman will play an “unlikely owner” of a minor-league baseball team, which she inherited after the sudden passing of her husband. The star is also set to executive produce the series. It may be worth noting that an executive producer typically has a role connected to financing a film or production.
Huffman is an ABC alum, so it’s of no surprise that her big return to the screen is with the network. However, Deadline reports that Huffman had been “heavily courted for TV series and pilots since she completed her short prison sentence.”
It seems Huffman is benefiting from a case of failing upwards — when an individual’s career actually sees benefits after an onslaught of failures. We often see cases of failing upwards when individuals talk about their failures openly as learning experiences. While Huffman has remained quite a low profile since her arrest, even deleting her social media, she never once tried to justify her actions. Instead, she has been taking accountability, serving her sentence and seemingly learning from her mistakes. This is why people who fail upwards are frequently applauded — they are success stories for us to ponder over.
Huffman’s return to the screen is, of course, met with some well-deserved backlash.
It’s only been about a year since Operation Varsity Blues, and many remain upset with her role in the scandal. She has a much higher advantage than many other families and students hoping to be accepted into college each year. As an affluent and privileged actress, Huffman possessed the money and resources to help her daughter in a more honest and legal manner — perhaps hiring tutors, paying for SAT prep courses and more. It’s a privilege for her to make such a return while so many other released inmates struggle to find work.
Despite this, Huffman is also not without her supporters:
Huffman is not the only celebrity to bounce back from time in prison. Martha Stewart made an incredible comeback after her stint in prison for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Many others have come back from DUI and drug related arrests as well. So, it’s not hard to believe that Huffman may eventually return to her previous success.
Yes, Huffman did something wrong, but she is owning up to her mistakes and taking steps to move on. Just because she is a celebrity, it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be offered some leniency in finding her footing again. This is her first role after the infamous college admissions scandal which won’t be easy for her, seen with the rallies of people online who hold disdain for the actress. No one can truly predict if this show will mark a successful comeback for the actress but, hey, it may even get cancelled after a few episodes.
Jacqueline Nguyen is an Opinion Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.