||Scott Speedman Makes 'em Swoon on Felicity (Jessica Wallenfels, TV Quest)
Scott Speedman plays The One That Got Away. He's that
maddening, elusive figure - hapless victim of a crush-gone-wild - who remains unresponsive
to any amount of charm and good looks. Except on "Felicity," (9 ET on Tuesdays
on the WB) Speedman's Ben Covington couldn't quite get away. Felicity follows her
infatuation cross-country to New York, where Ben has enrolled in college.
In it's first season, "Felicity" has garnered plenty of critical acclaim as well
as a minor league scandal: one of the show's writers, stage name Riley Weston, was
discovered to be a 31 year-old woman instead of the 19 year-old-wunderkind she claimed to
be. "I don't really care. Who cares?" shrugs Speedman of the brouhaha.
"Yeah, she got caught, she lied...whatever. Doesn't affect the show," he
Finding Speedman at the West Hollywood Starbucks was not a difficult job. He was the one
with the Greek-Godlet meets All-American boy coloring, sitting alone in a shaft of L.A.'s
afternoon sunlight, much like a sun-drenched setup for a scene on "Felicity."
Against the spare black T-shirt and khakis he wears, his green eyes jump out at you.
The debates generated over "Felicity"'s errant writer isn't the only thing
Speedman is nonchalant about. There's also the matter of his face being plastered all over
town on billboards ("You just laugh at it") and some of his early work in Canada
("Is that my resume?" he asks, and mumbles, "So embarrassing").
One of the things he's not dismissive toward is "Felicity" itself. "I don't
love television," he states, but Speedman says he made an exception when he read the
pilot for "Felicity." Another subject that perks Speedman up is his castmates.
Co-stars Keri Russell, Amy Jo Johnson, Scott Foley and Devon Gummersall "blow me away
sometimes," he says.
Speedman's all-American boy features belie a more exotic upbringing. He was born in London
and raised in Toronto, Canada, where he trained intensively both in swimming and running
from the age of seven. At 14, "swimming took over" when he began bonding closely
with his teammates. He'd train from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.- with a minor break in the day
to attend a special school for athletes. Olympic trials were in sight. Then, at 16,
Speedman suffered a neck injury from overtraining.
"It was hard, because [swimming] was my whole life," he explains of the life
change. When a girlfriend dared him to go on the Canadian open-forum talk show
"Speaker's Corner," he took her up on it. "A lot of other guys had been
doing it I guess," he explains, letting his competitive side show. Speedman dropped
his phone number on camera and got a call from the casting director of "Batman
Forever," who was in Toronto on a world search for the new Boy Wonder. Though he
didn't get the role, he was introduced to a prestigious talent agency. With the potential
for an acting career staring him in the face, Speedman still had an eye on swimming.
"I couldn't fathom leaving that idea created in my mind about what I wanted from
swimming...that family," he emphasizes.
He enrolled at the University of Toronto with a mind to get back into the pool, but landed
his first acting job the first week of school with a part on "Kung Fu: The Legend
Continues." After a year of college, going back to swimming "didn't work
out," so Speedman dropped out. Roles on syndicated as well as Canadian TV series and
telefilms followed: "Nancy Drew," "Goosebumps," "Net Worth,"
and "Giant Mine." But it was a juicy part playing an off-the-wall punk in the
1996 short film "Can I Get A Witness?" that earned Speedman serious acting
kudos. The film, developed at the Norman Jewison Film Center, went on to screen at that
year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Playing an anti-hero in the independent feature "Kitchen Party" was another
breakthrough for the rookie actor. Though afforded some respect for his work in the indie
scene, Toronto's small market forced Speedman to accept jobs he didn't want. "What
was frustrating about it was that I'd do good stuff, and then I'd still be auditioning for
crap," Speedman says. He was cast in the feature film "Ursa Major," as well
as the TV projects "Dead Silence," "What Happened to Bobby Earl?" and
"Every 9 Seconds." "What's 'Every 9 Seconds?'" Speedman asks
In 1997, the 22-year-old Speedman dropped his Toronto agent and headed for New York's
greener acting pastures. He spent six months attending the Neighborhood Playhouse, then
dropped out. It was a good school, Speedman says, but resumes the nonchalance when he
explains that "I dropped out of a lot of things." Three weeks later, Speedman
got a call in Toronto from "Felicity"'s casting director. He was asked to put a
couple of scenes on tape; though he read opposite "the camera guy," "The
words just seemed to fly out of my mouth." Speedman went to work the following
Monday. With a grin at the coming understatement, Speedman relates, "It was really
Coincidentally, Ben had originally been written as a competitive swimmer, and show execs
were pleased that Speedman actually was one. However, Speedman's relationship to the sport
prompted him to ask if Ben could be a runner instead. "I used to be able to fly
through the water," he describes of his swimming ability. "Now it's like, hard
to finish a couple laps." On a good day, Speedman gets the same kind of charge from
acting that he used to find in sports. Racing, he says, "has "the same type of
flow, and feel, and ease, that I'm trying to find with acting."
In one episode, Speedman's Ben came in dead last at NYU's track team tryout. Did the
competitive juices come back? Yes, along with a little humility. "Well, you know, I
had to lose," he protests, then flashes that irresistible grin. "They would have
killed me," he admits sheepishly.
That enigmatic smile could be pinned with the fate of the a show that snags mediocre
ratings but much media attention. Those who do watch the show enjoy the
will-they-or-won't-they dilemma, which hangs in the balance of Speedman's unreadable
expression every time he's faced with Felicity's naked admiration. Ben explains his
character's ambivalence: "This girl is just incredibly attractive, but she's kind
It's a tightrope that Speedman walks with precision, even if he doesn't know how he does
it. On one hand, he strives toward a conscious "swinging"; on the other, he's
asking, "Enigmatic. What does that exactly mean? Mysterious smile. Sure." An
tense gulp escapes him.
Some of Speedman's most compelling work came out of an episode in which Ben reluctantly
takes an acting class. Ben first blows the assignment, then bares his soul in a monologue.
Playing a student despised by classmate and teacher hit home for study-challenged
Speedman, who admits he's never been much into academics.
On his hiatus, Speedman plans to perform in playwright David Mamet's "American
Buffalo" in Toronto. He also likes to walk in his spare time, practically unheard of
in Los Angeles. As for his marital status - he's single! Told that his bachelor status
will surely make girls happy, he wants to know more. "Why do they love that?" he
asks earnestly. "It gives them permission to dream," I tell him.
"Really!" he gasps. "Never understood that."
Speedman relies on his childhood swimming buddies to keep him grounded. "When I see
them they don't even mention the show, which is very nice. They don't really care. They
just think it's stupid," he laughs with relief. "Swimmers are simple, good