That ’90s Show EP Talks Jay and Silent Bob’s Crash Landing — Plus, What’s Ahead (and Who’s Returning) in Part 3

That ’90s Show EP Talks Jay and Silent Bob’s Crash Landing — Plus, What’s Ahead (and Who’s Returning) in Part 3

Leia Forman and her friends have a giant mess to clean up before That ’90s Show returns this fall.

Part 2 of the That ’70s Show sequel series ends with the arrival of Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith — not as Jay and Silent Bob, but as Bunch and Sonny, who accidentally drive their car through Red and Kitty’s house. Following their crash entrance, Tommy Chong’s Leo makes his way into the kitchen and tells Leia that Sonny is his son; he’s in Point Place to take over the family business. Of course, all that Eric and Donna’s daughter cares about at the moment is patching up her grandparents’ wall before they return home.

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Ahead of That ’90s Show Part 3, TVLine hopped on Zoom with showrunner Gregg Mettler to talk all things Part 2 and what (and who) viewers can expect to see when the sitcom returns with eight more episodes on Thursday, Oct. 24.

TVLINE | Topher Grace, Wilmer Valderrama, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher did not return for Part 2. Wilmer’s absence, in particular, was felt, since Fez and Sherri were an item at the end of Part 1. Was there ever a plan to bring him back — perhaps a plan that got derailed by Hollywood’s dual strikes and his need to return to CBS’ NCIS as soon as the work stoppage was over?
We always hope to have everybody back. We come up with ideas, we bat things around… but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it’s about scheduling. To commit our time to fleshing out a story and writing a script, we have to know that, for example, Wilmer will be available. Just from a purely practical production standpoint, if it gets unpredictable, that’s challenging. Wilmer’s busy, so we decided to let the show be about our kids and let it stand more on its own this season.

I will be grateful for the rest of eternity for the contributions of the legacy cast members from That ’70s Show in Part 1. Them returning was a blessing, and they handed the show off in a delightful way. We still have Laura [Prepon, who recurs as Donna], and she’s wonderful. She directed the entire Part 3, and she performed a lot in it. Focusing on our characters now, and weaving in That ’70s Show people, is a recipe that works for us.

TVLINE | On the plus side, with the rest of the legacy cast M.I.A., Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp (Red and Kitty) have even more screen time this year….
They’re the heart of the show. The show takes place in their home, and they’re such a special couple. There’s so much understanding, so much love, so much compassion, so much patience, and I love showcasing that. Yes, they are going to bicker. Yes, there are going to be stories where Red is mad and Kitty is the cause of it, but they’re grandparents [now]. On That ’70s Show, when they were parents, they were stressed-out people. When you’re grandparents, and you’re sort of once removed, you do get to the luxury of enjoying [more time together].

TVLINE | You reference Eric’s sister Laurie and Donna’s mother Midge in Episode 7. Alas, neither Lisa Robin Kelly nor Tanya Roberts are with us anymore. However, a lot of revivals feature life updates on characters from the original show even if they do not appear — such was the case when Michelle Tanner was referenced in the Fuller House pilot. Do you think you’ll ever offer clarity on what happened to Laurie and Midge?
It’s a delicate question. I understand your question, and what I will say is, when stories come up, if it feels natural to be referencing something that people know from That ’70s Show, then we mention them — just like Red and Kitty would mention them in real life. Those people existed on That ’70s Show, and they were important characters, so yes, we will mention them when the time is right, and when it works for us, and when it’s comedic.

The memory of them from That ’70s Show, and as wonderful people, is on my mind when we’re writing. It always makes me a little emotional — like when Bob mentions Midge, you know? Tanya was so wonderful. So, yeah, it’s case-by-case. We try to just honor those characters with references to their participation in the old show.

TVLINE | So you don’t think you’ll ever fill in the blanks and inform audiences of what came of Laurie and Midge in the years between ’70s and ’90s?
I struggle with that a little bit because of real-life circumstances. It’s a great question. I think if there comes an opportunity to give some backstory, we might do it. But just the notion of honoring those people is really what I would like to stick with.

TVLINE | Let’s talk guest stars. You have Seth Green back, reprising his ’70s role as Mitch Miller. A few episodes later, you have Wayne Knight back — not as Eric’s guardian angel, but as a hospital patient who Red encounters when he’s brought in for chest pain. Do you have any sort of rule there — like, if someone recurred on ’70s, they have to play the same character, but if it was just a one-off, they can play someone new?
Let’s just start with Seth Green. I was there for a lot of Mitch stories back on That ’70s Show, and Seth is a brilliant comedic actor. When it came to the story of Leia and Gwen working at Hot Topic, they had to have a boss that was a pain in the ass, and I immediately thought maybe that’s where Mitch ended up. Once we had that idea — the clothes, the inferiority complex, what will happen once he knows who Leia actually is — that was just a natural fit. And that’s not his last episode! He returns, and he’s a joy to work with.

When it came to Wayne Knight, I wanted there to be a very comedic, very recognizable face when that hospital curtain opened, and somebody who would be a contemporary for Red, and I worked with Wayne a ton on 3rd Rock From the Sun. And Wayne Knight from Seinfeld — how much more ’90s can you get? Somebody pointed out to me that he played the guardian angel [in That ’70s Show’s Season 4 premiere], and I was there for that episode, but that was a fantastical, fantasy-type role, and this one feels more grounded. He’s an actual person and not an angel, so I let that one go.

TVLINE | Part 2 ends with the arrival of Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes — not as Jay and Silent Bob, but as Sonny and Bunch. At one point, Leo mentions that Sonny is taking over the family business. What does that mean in terms of Tommy Chong’s future on the show?
Well, Sonny is definitely Leo’s son. And yes, I think there is a passing of the torch… but if Tommy Chong wants to come over here and play, at any point, retired from the business or not, we have open arms. He’s the most wonderful guy. He comes in, and he just has magic coming out of him. If fans are worried that this is the end of Leo on our show, I would never think that. If his son has the business, he can come back at any time to check on how things are going.

TVLINE | So far, each part has taken place during Leia’s summer vacation. Part 1 took place over the summer of ’95, while Parts 2 and 3 take place over the summer of ’96. Do you think with more episodes that you’ll start exploring life outside of summer — perhaps have Leia visit during winter holidays, or having the rest of the basement dwellers visit Leia in Chicago during the school year?
Absolutely. The summer is wonderful, but opening up the show to holidays and to visits — and, god forbid, to school year stuff — is all on the table. You always want to open the show up to more stories, find out more about the characters in different situations. So, yeah… these things are heavily discussed.

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