11 Quick Questions for Debra Jo Rupp
‘That ’70s Show’ mom settles into a new decade
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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