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That ’90s Show’s Debra Jo Rupp & Kurtwood Smith Dish On The New Series

That ’90s Show’s Debra Jo Rupp & Kurtwood Smith Dish On The New Series

Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp in That 90s Show
Courtesy of Netflix

PRIDE spoke with returning stars on how their iconic characters have evolved since the ’70s — oh, and an adorable coming-out scene.

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From 1998 to 2006 Red and Kitty Foreman were America’s mom and dad. Kurtwood Smith’s Red was the quintessential hard ass with a heart of gold and Debra Jo’s Kitty was the beleaguered but loving mom who you could always turn to for support or a laugh. They were an essential part of the fabric that made up the cast of That ‘70s Show, and happily, they’re back to reprise those roles in Netflix’s upcoming revival, That ‘90s Show.

Despite the 17 years that have passed since we last saw Kitty and Red, the actors say getting back into their roles was easier than slipping into a pair of Jnco jeans. “It was very easy for me because I know who she is and the writers wrote to my strengths,” Rupp tells PRIDE. “I already had it in me and it was very, very easy and,” she says, turning to Smith, “then all I have to do is look at this guy and anything I’m missing comes back.”

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Debra Jo Rupp & Kurtwood Smith below.

Smith agrees. “You know, as soon as I opened my mouth, there it was,” he tells PRIDE. He credits the show’s creators, Bonnie and Terry Turner and Mark Brazill, as well as writer Gregg Mettler for recapturing the magic of the original series. “They really knew how to bring the qualities that made That ‘70s Show special into the new show,” he says. “That ‘70s Show and That ‘90s Show aren’t really ‘laugh shows’ that laugh at the expense of anything else, they’re laughs that come out of the character,” Smith explains.

While some things remain the same this time around — like the incredible recreation of the Foreman’s house — the new era means that some stories and characters are much more modern and familiar. That ’90s Show introduces its first queer cast member, Ozzie, played by Reyn Doi. During the season, he’s on a journey to come out to his parents, and along the way he chooses Kitty to be one of the people he opens up to.

Debra Jo Rupp and Reyn Doi in That 90s Show

Courtesy of Netflix

The scene, without spoiling it, nails that perfect balance of poignancy and hilarity, and it’s one that was deeply meaningful for Rupp to be a part of. “I was kind of honored to be the one that Ozzie chose, or the writers chose,” she shares. “I was honored and wanted to do it justice. There was a joke in it that I remember thinking, ‘Ah, I gotta do this just right to make this thing work.’ Ozzie is so sweet and cute and quirky. And it was so right for the decade it was, it was just perfect. It was a lovely moment for me in my acting profession.”

That Kitty would offer a safe harbor for a kid to open up to, even in the1990s Midwest, makes sense. “I thought about how much does she know? Because, you know, Kitty can be very naive. But I thought no, she’s a nurse too, she knows what’s going on,” Rupp reflects. “I was happy to do it. I was happy to do it for the kids.”

Smith shares that Red has also evolved in this new decade. While at first he seems like the same butt-kicking grump he always was, this time around he can’t help but reveal a softer side. “The kids are all out of the house and out of the basement and everything for some period of time. And, you know, I think he sort of enjoys his retirement. But at the same time, he sort of misses the action, you know. And so it’s a win-win when the kids come back,” says Smith.

The Foremans in That 90s Show great each other at the door

Courtesy of Netflix

“When he was trying to raise Eric, he was concerned that Eric wasn’t really going to be able to handle himself in the real world, which is one reason that he was always on him. And I think that, even though he’s still giving them trouble, just because he didn’t want any backsliding, he realized that it maybe was harder than he needed to be.”

Red’s relationship with Leia (Callie Haverda) — Eric and Donna’s daughter — allows him to ease up a little and pour on some affection. “He has a special love for her,” says Smith.

When you combine all its qualities, the series is wonderfully wholesome and affirming — and that it’s also queer-inclusive only makes it more so. It’s good to have back and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

That ’90s Show premieres today on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

Hello, Wisconsin! That '90s Show is coming to Netflix on January 19.It’s 1995 and Leia Forman is desperate for some adventure in her life or at least a best ...

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.