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‘That '70s Show’ star didn't know the show took place in the '70s until she showed up on set

‘I somehow missed that part in the script,’ jokes sitcom mom, Debra Jo Rupp.

By Benjamin Bullard
Debra Jo Rupp

For a comedy series that boldly teased its theme like a groovy T-shirt slogan, That ‘70s Show somehow managed to sneak the mother of all open secrets right past the mom tasked with keeping the family in constant check onscreen. Thanks to a semi-stealthy working title that apparently concealed the show's nostalgic trappings through early script reads, star Debra Jo Rupp had to actually arrive on set to appreciate that she’d been cast to chaperone a return trip to the Me Decade.

To period-appropriate perfection, Rupp played mom Kitty Forman in the long-running Fox series that’s freshly arrived in all its funny low-fi glory over at Peacock. But she recently confessed to Entertainment Weekly that the whole 1970s angle totally eluded her until she walked onto the set and found herself awash in a sea of enamel-caked kitchen gear.

“I think I was in a bit of shock because I did not realize that this was set in the ‘70s until I saw the appliances on the set,” she confessed, sitting alongside bemused RoboCop movie alum and That ‘70s Show costar, Kurtwood Smith (who played dad Red Forman in the series). “I somehow missed that part in the script!”

Smith, still spousally snarky as he and Rupp return to reprise their roles in Netflix’s present-day revival That ‘90s Show, interjected at that point to state the seemingly obvious: “Like, the title, you mean?”

“Well, it wasn’t called that!” Rupp answered. “It was called, like, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ or something…Well, I didn’t know it was the ‘70s, so maybe I didn’t read the title of the show. I didn’t know completely what that involved!”

Known also for memorable small-screen turns in a slew of subsequent comedies including Friends, WandaVision, and as Jerry’s overzealous assistant in Seinfeld, Rupp was just one star among a constellation of big names who coalesced around That ‘70s Show’s slightly more-innocent old-school vibe. Running for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006, the series launched the acting career of Ashton Kutcher, while fielding an ensemble cast that also included Smith, Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama, Tommy Chong, and Mila Kunis (Kutcher’s real-life wife).

Rupp joked that her ‘70s Show role initially gave her a slight case of best-behavior syndrome, thanks to the prospect of acting alongside Smith, who played a tough-guy crime kingpin in 1987’s RoboCop. “Red [Smith] terrified me, because I knew he was [in] RoboCop…so I was very nice to him then,” she teased.

Let’s face it: Everyone’s pretty nice in That ‘70s Show, a series that won tons of loyal viewers who tagged along for a comedic ride more mild than wild in one of the biggest TV shows of the late 1990s. Hit up Peacock for a present-day blast back to the small screen past, with all eight seasons now streaming around the clock.

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