Debra Jo Rupp & Kurtwood Smith on Reprising Iconic Roles

Jan 19, 2023

In That ’70s Show, though the hit series focused on Eric Forman (played by Topher Grace) and his friends, it was grumpy Red Forman and his ever-cheerful wife Kitty, played by Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp respectively, that stole the show. In Netflix’s revival series, That ’90s Show, the two are reprising their roles, but this time they’re the grandparents of Eric and Donna’s (Laura Prepon) daughter, Leia (Callie Haverda).

A new generation is taking over the Forman basement, to Red’s deep irritation. When Callie visits her grandparents in Point Place, Wisconsin for the summer, Red and Kitty find themselves, once again, hosting a throng of teens. In addition to Haverda, the new cast introduces Mace Coronel, Reyn Doi, Maxwell Donovan, Sam Morelos, and Ashley Aufderheide. The series will also feature guest appearances by That ’70s Show alums Grace, Prepon, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Wilmer Valderrama, and more.

Before That ’90s Show takes over Netflix on January 19, Collider’s Steve Weintraub spoke with Rupp and Smith about returning for the reboot. During their interview, the duo reveal how, had they not signed on, That ’90s Show wouldn’t be made, what it was like to reprise such iconic characters, and how filming for a 10-episode season compared to 20-plus episodes. They also talk about the power of “dumbass” all these years later and serving as executive producers. You can watch the interview in the video above, and read the full transcript below.

COLLIDER: You both worked in Hollywood for a very long time, and I’m curious, if someone has never seen anything that you’ve done before, what is the first thing you’d like them watching, and why?

DEBRA JO RUPP: Oh, you’re looking at me? I think I would just like them to smile. That’s all. When you look at me, I want you to smile. Because I haven’t done RoboCop, because I would imagine you don’t want that to happen then. But for me, I would like them to go, “Oh, I know her,” and smile. That’s what I would like.

KURTWOOD SMITH: Well, Debora Jo mentioned RoboCop, which of course did an awful lot for me, and was terrific fun to do it. But I would say I would like them to see Patriot on Amazon, which I did a couple of years ago.

RUPP: Oh, was that the question?

SMITH: Wasn’t that the question? ‘What would you like people to see if they’re not familiar with your background?’


RUPP: Oh, I did not know that. I misinterpreted the question. Oh.

SMITH: But you did a good job though.

I thought your answer was good.

RUPP: Oh, okay.


Image via Netflix

So I’ve seen all 10 episodes of That ’90s Show. I’m sure it’s going to be a hit.

RUPP: Oh, thank you.

But the series wouldn’t work without the two of you. You’re instrumental in connecting the two series. What was it like behind the scenes when they first approached you to do this? Because you guys are really important for the success of this show, and I’m curious, how much were they figuring out, “What happens if you guys don’t want to do it? How is this show going to get made?”

RUPP: I don’t think they would’ve made it.

SMITH: Certainly not in this format. I mean, I guess they could have done… Well, no, they couldn’t because Topher [Grace] had another show.

RUPP: No. I was told they wouldn’t have done it.

SMITH: Well, they certainly wouldn’t have done it this way.

I am so curious, what was it like making this series – a whole new cast – what was it like making this one versus the original, That ’70s Show? Because also that one was, I believe, 20-something episodes a season, and this was 10.

RUPP: Well, for me, the difference [was] I already knew the character. So in ’70s Show, we were all figuring out our characters. But going into this, I already knew Kitty, I knew who Kitty was, so I felt like I had a leg up. And with less episodes, that was very valuable because I didn’t have to do this, you know, waste four episodes doing investigating as to who she was. It was there from the beginning. That’s my answer. What’s yours?

SMITH: That was a good answer. That was really a good answer. What was the question again? Okay. Yeah. I think that, yes, before we were doing 25 episodes a season, we’re only doing 10 this time, but that was good, especially, I think, at the beginning. If we were trying to do 25 episodes, I think it would’ve run us all into the ground.

I think the fact that the writers, in particular, the creators of the show, Bonnie and Terry Turner and Gregg Mettler, all three of whom had worked on the previous show, they knew where to go. They also had a leg up, as opposed to having to develop all these things as it went along. If you go back and look at the beginning of That ’70s Show to see how much we changed, how much the show changed in the time that it was on the air. Here, they already knew what was going to work. They already knew that “dumbass” was going to work, and they knew that Debora Jo was going to be able to laugh, and they had all these things going right from the beginning.

Image via Netflix

Speaking of dumbass, how often in real life do people want you to call them a dumbass?

SMITH: Amazingly, a lot. It’s just, it’s amazing to me that guys… Maybe one woman asked me to call her a dumbass, but pretty much it’s guys and they come up and they go, “Hey man, can you call me a dumbass?” And what I used to say was, “Anybody who wants to be called a dumbass is a dumbass.” And then I’d call them a dumbass, and they’d be happy. Yeah. But I don’t know why. I have no idea what that comes from. I think they feel that it kind of pulls them in, makes them a little tiny bit a part of the show.

I agree. I believe this is the first time, for both of you, that you’ve been given an executive producer credit on a show. What does it mean for both of you to actually get credited as a producer?

SMITH: I think that this first season, we really didn’t have time to make use of that. Everybody is so busy developing the show that I think that for us to start saying, “Hey, we think that…” would’ve just made everything very difficult.

RUPP: A big difference from ’70s Show was dealing with COVID in That ’90s Show, and there was just a lot of pulling together with that, and a lot of figuring out with that. So that took a lot of time. There was a lot of navigating with ’90s Show, and I think we all just… Everybody just pitched in and did what they could do. So I’m not really exactly sure about the executive producer yet, but we will be finding out, hopefully.

That 90s Show will stream exclusively on Netflix beginning January 19.

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