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11 Quick Questions for Debra Jo Rupp

‘That ’70s Show’ mom settles into a new decade

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Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

In That ’90s Show — the Netflix reboot of That ’70s Show Debra Jo Rupp, 71, is still mom Kitty Forman hosting teenagers in her basement. Two decades later, those kids are her teenage granddaughter’s group of friends. It’s a new era, but Kitty’s still showing her trademark snarky side and sporting an iconic hairdo.

What was your first reaction when they asked to do the sequel?

I was kind of worried about how they were going to do it. I didn’t want it to be That ’70s Show with just different kids. One of the nice things about That ’70s Show was that it was indeed a family. So if you’re going to pick up 15, 17 years later, you have to see life moving on for the family. When they presented the premise of the grandchild coming to stay for the summer, that made a lot of sense to me.

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Was there any discussion about a new hairdo for Kitty?

Oh, we had quite the hair discussion. There always is one with Kitty. In the last season [of That ’70s Show], she had that wedge, which I really wanted, because I just wanted the fussing to stop. I thought about it, and I myself have had the same hairdo for 40 years, and it works for me. I think Kitty would go to the hairstyle where she feels prettiest, so I went, “Let's just go back to that hairdo.” It’s a little flatter, and it’s a little softer, but it’s still the flippage — very important.

Is it still a wig? I read you had one made after Season 1 to save yourself prep time.

Not the same wig, a different wig. It’s slightly different. It saves time. It saves my hair because there isn’t as much hair as when I did That ’70s Show. Every piece of hair I can keep is a good thing.

What were the two decades — the ’70s and the ’90s — like for you personally?

When they first said, “We're going to pick [the show] up in the ’90s,” I thought, What happened in the ’90s? I realized that the ’90s went by so quickly for me. Both decades were transformative for me in very big ways. The ’70s, I was in college, so I was very close to the age of the kids during the ’70s Show, and so Kitty was kind of my mother. The ’90s: My dad died at the beginning of 1990, and I was living in New York [acting in theater] and went to L.A. to be an actress at 40, because I thought that would be a great idea. I was a really late bloomer, and I thought, Well, if you don't try, you’re not going to know. So I borrowed $6,000 from the Actors Federal Credit Union. I thought that would get me through pilot season, which is six months. What was I thinking? But I had just great tremendous luck when I got out there, and television pays a lot more than theater, so I was able to survive. … I bought my first home. It was not the prettiest home on the block, but it was mine. The ’90s really moved fast, and I felt like I was doing a lot of catching up, a lot of growing up.

spinner image debra jo rupp as kitty in the kitchen in a still from that 90s show
Rupp reprises her "That ’70s Show" role of Kitty in “That ’90s Show,” now streaming on Netflix.

What’s been your favorite decade?

The ’80s, because I loved disco. I think I was kind of my prettiest then. I was in my prime then, and I was in New York City, Studio 54. Those were my party days, my carefree days. So I had a lot of adulting to do in the ’90s when I moved to L.A. I had to learn to drive again at 40 because I wasn’t driving in New York City.

Did you love the clothing too?

Yes, I did. The shoulder pads? Yes. I loved the clothing, and I was so happy to get rid of the bell bottoms from the ’70s because I have no limbs. I'm very short, so those shoulder pads were like heaven to me.

What if it hadn’t worked out when you went to L.A with that $6,000?

I had no backup plan whatsoever. If it had not worked, I probably would have gone home and lived with my parents at the age of 45. I probably would have become an accountant, because my mother thought that would be excellent. I don't know why, but she did.

Speaking of mothers, Betty White played yours on That ’70s Show. How was that?

It was so great. Marion Ross [played ’70s Show husband Red’s mother] — she was magic too. They were our mothers. We were so lucky. [Betty] practiced her craft. Her timing was impeccable. She worked at her timing, and I was surprised she did that work. I do that. I just thought she was God, and she could do no wrong, but she really worked at it and perfected it. It was fun to watch. Tom Poston was my father. The two of them put together was unbelievable.

You're now part of the Marvel Universe as Mrs. Hunt in Disney+’s WandaVision and in the upcoming Agatha: Coven of Chaos. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. Yeah, I’d be invisible because that’s hard to fight.

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Then there’s your stage career, which includes your award-winning performance playing sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer on Broadway and in the one-woman show Becoming Dr. Ruth.

I had dinner with her last night.

Really, wow. How is she?

She's good. You know, she’s 94 years old, but she sat down and said, “I've got two projects. I’m working on two projects now.” When I get tired, I think about that woman, and I go, Oh my God. I gotta find some kind of energy somewhere. She's amazing. I was very lucky to play that.

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