That ‘90s Show Stars Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith Offer 5 Things to Know About the That ‘70s Show Sequel

The Forman household livens up when Red and Kitty’s granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda), the daughter of "legacy kids" Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), decides to spend the summer.

by | January 23, 2023 | Comments

Hello, Wisconsin! The basement crew looks a lot different this time around, but the real scene stealers – Kitty and Red Forman (Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith) – are back to shepherd a whole new group of kids in That ‘90s Show, the Netflix sequel to That ’70s Show.

Debuting nearly 18 years after the original series ended on Fox, the new Point Place teens are tokin’ up downstairs at the Formans’, led by Red and Kitty’s granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda), the daughter of OG stoners Eric Forman (guest star Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon, guest star and director of two episodes). Hijinks include teen romance, a wickedly clever Beverly Hills 90210 spoof (with a very special guest star), and, of course, the procurement of herbal refreshments.

That ‘90s Show keyart

(Photo by Netflix)

But the real fun of the spin-off revolves around Kitty and Red, who, after several child-free years, have grown closer as a couple. And while they seem to be doing just fine as empty nesters — they even join the brave new ’90s world of computers and AOL internet access — they’re also energized by Leia and her new pals. Even if Red continues to promise ass kickings to those who annoy him.

Rotten Tomatoes chatted with Rupp and Smith about the new series, and how sweet it is to reunite with each other, and their TV kids.

The Dream of the ’90s Is Alive

Talk of That ’90s Show began during the pandemic, when everyone was still largely isolated. But Rupp and Smith say they had no hesitation about returning to play Red and Kitty, the roles they originated in the 1976–79–set sitcom, which aired on Fox from 1998-2006.

“No, (no hesitation),” Rupp says. “We have the same creators … our showrunner (Gregg Mettler) was a writer on That ’70s Show. I think that we both felt, Yes!, because it was a fun show to do. It was a great working experience, and we had each other, and we knew (we were) in very good hands.”

Here They Go Again

That ‘90s Show

(Photo by Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

Rupp and Smith were also excited about their reunion as co-stars, and the reunion of their characters, which proved to be just as fun as they expected it would be.

“It was a different decade,” Rupp says. “I think what was happening during the ’90s, and how they were navigating that … and grandparents are not parents. They don’t have the responsibilities of parents, so there’s a little more freedom in that, I think. (Red and Kitty) can break some rules, and then Donna can fix it.”

Smith adds, “They’ve also had another 17 years of being together, and this time, pretty much by themselves without kids and neighborhood kids. And so I think that that has definitely led into — her character is happy to have this intrusion (of Leia and her friends). My character is not initially, but we’ll see. Eventually, I think he warms up to it. And so that gives the show a different dynamic.

“I don’t want to give things away, but in terms of things that happened between he and his granddaughter, he gives her a present of something that was important to the family. And even with the kid next door who wants to have some kind of a father figure relationship with him, Red is like, ‘Nah.’ Then we see that in his own kind of Red way, he ends up warming up to the idea.”

The COVID Factor

That ‘90s Show

(Photo by Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

In addition to their front-and-center on-screen roles, Rupp and Smith are That ’90s Show executive producers, the first time they’ve had those positions in their prolific TV careers.

Unfortunately, COVID reared its ugly head on that experience during production.

“Quite frankly, we were dealing with so many different kinds of situations,” Rupp says. “We were dealing with COVID, and we were rehearsing with masks and half faces, and there was so much new to deal with that we didn’t have during That ’70s Show. I’m not sure how much of any of that had to do with being executive producers. We all just tried to fix things as best we could and work through things as best we could, and do 10 good, complete episodes. So I’m not sure this season is the one to go by. Ask me next year [how things went] if we have a second season, and I’ll be happy to tell you. But this was very different, I mean, for anyone in Hollywood.”

The OG Kids

That ‘90s Show stars Andrea Anders and Wilmer Valderrama

(Photo by Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

Grace and Prepon, Ashton Kutcher and co-star/real-life wife Mila Kunis, and Wilmer Valderrama (whose performance as the ’90s man about Point Place Fez is another of the new series’ biggest delights) all make guest appearances in the Forman house, and Rupp and Smith were clearly thrilled to be reunited with the That ’70s Show cast they refer to as the “legacy kids.”

“They came in as they shot their scenes, so they didn’t come all at once. So every time one would enter from a living room door or the kitchen door, I would cry,” Rupp says. “We would take a short break, and then we would resume. And mostly, I think it was just this really deep pride for these beautiful humans that they are. And they really are. They really, really are. And they have families of their own. And occasionally, I’d find myself looking at one of them and seeing the stress of life on their faces, which that I had during That ’70s Show, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m done with that (stress of life) now.’”

That ‘90s Show guest stars Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis

(Photo by Netflix)

Ma and Pa Forman said seeing the legacy kids populate the set was more surreal than stepping back into the house themselves, and for the on-screen couple who became a mom and dad, together, in real life – Kutcher and Kunis – Smith says he, for one, wasn’t shocked that Jackie and Kelso led to a real world Hollywood coupling.

“That was really the most surreal (return), I think,” he says. “Even though it wasn’t shocking to me that they got together, because they worked together so much. But still, actually seeing them with kids, it’s quite something.”

New Kids on the Block

That '90s Show kids

(Photo by Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

As for the new cast members who take the show into the ’90s (it’s the summer 1995, specifically, as Leia decides to spend the summer with her grandparents) and into the world of mall hangouts, Blockbuster video rentals, and the music of Dee-Lite, Haverda (Shut Eye) is charming as Leia. There’s a new Kelso (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn’s Mace Coronel) in the mix, too, but the scene stealer in the junior set is Ozzie, Leia’s sarcastic, but vulnerable new friend, played by Nickelodeon’s Side Hustle star Reyn Doi. His pals all know Ozzie is gay, but his attempts to come out to various Point Place adults provide recurring, reliably funny moments.

Rupp and Smith, who spent eight seasons with the legacy kids of That ’70s Show, say they can imagine quite a few more with the bunch, too.

“I can’t see what it’s going to be like, but I can very easily see spending the time with them,” Smith says. “These new kids are really sharp and fun and intelligent, and I enjoy spending time with them. So yeah, I can see spending some serious years with them.”

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