My Worst Moment: When ‘That ‘90s Show’ (and ‘That ‘70s Show’) star Debra Jo Rupp stunned producer Aaron Spelling into silence (2023)

Best known as Kitty Forman on “That ‘70s Show,” Debra Jo Rupp has donned Kitty’s iconic feathered wig once again for the Netflix sequel “That ‘90s Show.” The final episodes of the original series aired almost 20 years ago, yet Kitty and her husband Red (played by Kurtwood Smith) remain ageless.

Rupp has some thoughts about Kitty’s unchanging hairstyle: “I, as Debra Jo Rupp, have had the same hairdo for 40 years and I bet you have too. You find the one that you go, ‘You know what, this looks OK and I don’t want to risk getting something I can’t live with for the next few months.’ So we had a long talk about Kitty’s hair and it is kind of iconic. She thinks it’s pretty! I know it’s sad — it’s so sad — but I think this is how she thinks she looks the prettiest. So we went back to it. It’s a little flatter and a little softer — but not much.”

Rupp’s other credits include everything from “Big” (as Tom Hanks’ secretary) to “Friends” (as Phoebe’s sister-in-law) to the Marvel series “WandaVision” (she’ll be returning in “Agatha: Coven of Chaos”). Plus: “Seinfeld,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “This Is Us” and an extensive list of stage credits.

When asked about a worst moment in her career, she recalled an early audition for Aaron Spelling — the super-producer behind shows such as “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Love Boat,” “Dynasty,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Charmed” — not long after she first arrived in Los Angeles.

My worst moment …

“This must have been the ‘90s. Aaron Spelling had all these shows that were, like, the ‘beautiful people.’ He was doing a new show — and I don’t think it ever went; I don’t think it ever became anything — but anyway, he was doing a new show and I went in and I auditioned for it.

“I had no idea why I was there because I was not one of those beautiful people. I can’t remember the show, it might have been along the lines of a ‘Charlie’s Angels’ thing. I feel like it was for some kind of detective maybe? The character worked in an office. So I could never be an Angel, but I could be a Bosley or whatever. Something like that.

“So I go in and audition for it, and I have quite a different take on the character because that’s just who I am, because I’m weird. And they kind of looked at me and went, ‘Huh. That’s kind of interesting.’ The director went, ‘That’s very interesting.’

“And all of a sudden I get a callback. And I’m like, oh my god! It’s for Aaron Spelling! Even my agent was in shock! We’re all in shock!

“So I go to this callback (laughs) and I’m out in the waiting area to go in and it’s all these beautiful women. I mean, tall, gorgeous women. And here is me, this short, stubby, 45-year-old. And I’m thinking: This is just awful.

“I walk in and there are probably 50 people all sitting in chairs along the back wall of this huge, huge room. I’ve never seen so many people in an audition ever in my life. In the center is Aaron Spelling.

“And he’s looking down at my picture. And then he looks up. And he looks right at me. And then he goes: ‘Huh.’ (Laughs) And no one says one word. No one says ‘hello,’ no one says one word to me. No one has prepared him.

“And I thought: This is really just awful.

“So (laughs), I look at him and go, ‘Well, I’m the other way to go.’

“But no one responds! It’s crickets. No one does anything. They’re just frozen because they’re so scared of him. I would have laughed! And he just stares at me. Just stares at me. And I thought, this is not going well at all.

“There was a part of me that was a little angry because no one stuck up for me! Even the casting director didn’t say, ‘Hi, Debra Jo!’ There was just nothing. Nothing. And I thought, well, that’s kind of — I’m not going to say the word, but it was not good.

“So now not only am I not your physical type, but I’m going to read your words in a way that you’ve never heard them before. Anger can be good in those situations. So I do it — I think there were two scenes and he had me do one. I finish it and there was complete silence.

“And then the casting director looks at Aaron Spelling. He looks down. And the casting director says, ‘Thank you, Debra.’ You know it’s bad when they don’t ask you to do the second scene.

“But here’s the thing: To me, it was really funny. It was just really, really funny: They didn’t get me. They didn’t get it at all. And I think a part of me just went: You poor people!

“Anyway, I had a good sense of humor about that one. And I went out to the parking lot and sometimes we would call the casting directors to get feedback. But when I got in the car and called my agent, I said: ‘We will not be calling them for feedback. We will just let this go.’

“But I do sometimes think about standing in that cavernous room with all of these people lined up against the wall just staring at me. And I kind of wondered what the pretty people thought when that happened because the pretty people become something else when that happens — they’re getting stared at. It was just not pleasant.”

Does it feel like Hollywood’s emphasis on “beautiful people” doesn’t leave room for people who are attractive but aren’t necessarily models?

“I don’t know how much of that I did to myself, you know? I didn’t look like what I thought the pretty people looked like. So I’m quite sure that I did a lot of this myself, going: Look, you don’t look like that, don’t go for those roles — go for what you think is in your lane.

“I think that when we’re younger — and 40s isn’t that young, but I think I was slow to grow up — I think we do it to ourselves really, a lot. Because I look at these wonderful actors we love to watch now, they’re not all perfect with their eyes this far apart or whatever. So I think we do a lot of it to ourselves, even in Hollywood.”

Was she surprised Spelling didn’t engage at all — to say hello or laugh at her joke?

“I think he was in shock. There were all these beautiful, beautiful people coming in to read — and then there was me reading those same words. I think he didn’t know what to do. I don’t think he was being mean, I just think he was rather stunned!

“So I read it in a way they had never thought of, because you have to. Either that or you have to walk out of the room — and I’m not going to do that. I’m doing the audition. Because in my head it’s like: You never know, maybe he’ll go, ‘Oh, I see what they saw!’

“Well, that’s not what happened.”

The takeaway …

“I think I could have been defeated. It was very intimidating. But to me, it was the humor of the situation.

“So I think the takeaway for me was: If you can get through that, you can get through anything. I think I became more fearless.”

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