(Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Netflix)

That ’90s Show Interview: Kurtwood Smith on Reprising Red Forman

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to That ’90s Show star Kurtwood Smith about Netflix’s sequel series, which is now streaming. The actor discussed reprising the role of Red Forman and how his character has changed.

“Hello, Wisconsin! It’s 1995 and Leia Forman, daughter of Eric and Donna, is visiting her grandparents for the summer where she bonds with a new generation of Point Place kids under the watchful eye of Kitty and the stern glare of Red,” reads the official synopsis. “Sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll never dies, it just changes clothes.”

Tyler Treese: I love that the show wasn’t just aping off the original, it was a proper continuation. Everybody’s changed, their lives have happened. Was there ever any hesitation on your part in reprising Red? Or once you knew that this was being done the right way, were you on board?

Kurtwood Smith: Oh, I was on board right away. Yeah. I mean, I knew it was going to be done the right way because we had the people with the right pedigree there. Two of the creators of the show, Bonnie and Terry Turner were back on board, and Greg Mettler, who was a writer on the show, was going to be our new showrunner. And of course, [the] show belonging to Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey. So it was all right there. I just knew it was going to be right, and it was. First script, I could tell that they were just moving us right along and just dropping in on somebody 20 years — 17 years, whatever it is.

You’re working with Debara Jo [Rupp] again, I thought it was great that you got to show that Red and Kitty still have that spark. There are even some moments with some role reversals, like a few moments of Red being a bit soft. What did you like most about that updated dynamic?

Well, I like it. It’s good to have something new, something a little bit different, because then we can see how he deals with that newness when he has it pointed out to him that, “Hey, thanks a lot. You did this for me,” and I’m like, “Get out.” But at the same time, he’s touched. He complains to Kitty about the kids being back and interrupting his life. Then we find that by the end of even the first episode, we can see that he’s kind of pleased that they’re around, you know? Gives him a little life right off the bat, but at least he gets to whack the neighbor on the head a few times. She’s new to the show, of course, Andrea [Anders], and she’s just terrific. So we’re happy to have her as well.

That dynamic between you and Andrea was so much fun, and I love that we got Don Stark as Bob again. How was it reuniting with him?

With Don? Oh gee, it’s great. I love Don, and he’s one of the people that I’ve seen very, very little of. So it was really fun having him back on the show, and I’m sure we’ll see more, in the same way it was with Tommy, Tommy Chong. Lots of fun having Tommy. When I was at the premier the other night, I was standing next to Tommy, and Tommy has quite a reputation with weed, so we’re standing there and he is got this leather pouch hanging around his neck. So I thought, “He’s probably got some pretty good weed in there or something. Maybe he brought it for after the show.” But I said, “Tommy, what’s in the little bag?” And he said, “It’s my Tesla key, man.” Now he’s carrying around a Tesla key instead of a pouch of weed. I thought that was kind of funny.

That’s hilarious. The young actress in the lead, Callie [Haverda] is just so talented as Leia. What did you like most about working with her? It’s very similar to what you had with Eric, but it’s definitely a different dynamic.

It’s definitely different and we’ll see how it goes as we go along. Right now, she, like Eric did a lot, is kind of living in fear of her grandfather. But then at the same time, he’s so much softer with her than he was with Eric. [It] wouldn’t surprise me if we find out she’s got him wrapped around her little finger, you know? But I have to say this — I love Callie, and Callie is terrific, and they all are. All of those kids, I’m so very impressed with them. [Their] talent and their work ethic … the talent is obvious and their work ethic — they’re there on time, they know their lines, they don’t screw around, but yet at the same time, they have fun. They enjoy each other’s company, they enjoy our company. So it was really great techniques.

What really impressed me about the show was it works for people that have that nostalgia for That ’70s Show, but the new cast is able to stand alone. How great is it knowing that the original show’s legacy is just going to grow because of this and it works on multiple levels?

I certainly think so. I’m very excited to see what the reaction [is]. The reaction from the journalists that we’ve been doing interviews with has been so, so great. Everyone’s been so excited about the show for us, and we think that’s terrific.

I thought all the cameos throughout the season were great. What did it mean to reunite with some of the old cast members and that they are willing to support this and gave it their full blessing?

Oh, I’m very pleased. But I have to say, I’m not too surprised. I mean, especially, I think, when they found out who was behind the show — the Turners and Greg — they felt comfortable coming back. For the most part, that was their first big job, you know? And it changed the focus of their lives, the direction of their lives, I think, and so they certainly remember that.

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