In the summer of 1995, Alanis Morissette released the genre-defying alternative rock album Jagged Little Pill, O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney said the infamous phrase, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”, an intense heatwave hit dozens of cities in the United States, Clueless premiered in theaters, Coolio released his single Gangsta’s Paradise, and Microsoft released its operating system, Windows 95.
Also during the summer of 1995, in the fictional suburb of Point Place, Wisconsin, Leia Forman decides to skip camp and stay with her grandparents, promising herself a summer of adventure.
For actress Callie Haverda, who was born in 2007, taking on the role of Leia in Netflix’s upcoming sequel series That ‘90s Show meant research.
“There are so many references [to the ‘90s] in the script. Anytime I’d get a script and I would read it and I’d be like, ‘Oh, I have no idea what that is!’, I’d research it and learn more about it,” she says. “In one of the original scripts – I think they took it out – there was a mention of Boggle at some point. So I actually bought little travel Boggle sets for all my castmates and studied that and kind of learned what that was because I had no idea what that was.”
The young actress also says that she studied a lot of music from the 1990s, given its prominence in the series. She also took time to study an article about a feminist punk movement that was forwarded to her for her audition. “It was an online article about Riot Grrrl; I read through that whole thing and learned what Riot Grrrl [and] that whole movement is. So yeah, I definitely did study.”
What makes That ‘90s Show so cool, aside from the fact that it will take place during an oft-reminisced decade, is that not only are original stars mixing with new ones on-screen, but similar things are happening behind the scenes with the crew members as well.
That starts with Lindsay Turner who is credited as a co-creator, as well as a writer and producer, alongside Bonnie and Terry Turner, her parents and creators of That ‘70s Show (Gregg Mettler rounds out the creators). Think Hulu’s Reboot but with, most likely, less drama.
“It was incredible,” Callie starts when discussing the mixing of creatives and crews. “From the hair and makeup team to the writers and creators, it was all the original members from [That ‘70s Show]. It was just incredible seeing this like big reunion happening, honestly. I think that kind of joy comes through the show and you can definitely feel it while you watch the episodes. You can see we’re just having so much fun. Everyone was just so happy to have us there and see us be able to experience this new thing that they had experienced years ago.”
She shares, “That was a big thing that Topher [Grace] and I talked about a lot, was he knows what I was going through because he was in the exact same shoes that I am in and was in when I first started filming.”
She grins, offering a glimpse into the joy she recalls from being on set. “I think there’s so much happiness that [we all had] you can feel while you’re watching.” Adding to that, the audience will be able to feel the large amount of support the cast and crew offered each other.
For the fans of That ‘70s Show, Callie says that they will admire the way That ‘90s Show captures the feeling of the original. “Hopefully they’ll see that and it’ll be like watching the old show but with new kids and a new feeling as well, the kind of happiness and nostalgia they’ll feel with it.”
A wide grin graces her features as she nods to the cameos from legacy cast members throughout the first season. “That’ll be super fun [for audiences] to see and see where they are now.”
However, That ‘90s Show should be recognized on its own merit and be able to carve its own spot in media. “I think we do a really good job of balancing being able to allow teenagers today to connect with us and with this show, even though they’ve never seen That ‘70s Show, being able to come into this without having seen it and connect to a whole new generation.”
That’s not to say that old fans will be left in the dust. “Then you have Red and Kitty leading the way for us and paving the road. I think the old fans will really enjoy that and seeing how they interact with the new kids. I think it’ll be great.”
The original series is known for its comedy; the cast of actors treat each episode like a masterclass in hitting your punchline. That begs the question – what did That ‘70s Show do so well that That ‘90s Show hopes to achieve, and possibly bypass?
“The original show is just so iconic. I think a really big thing about the show that I can assume that everyone really loved – that I definitely loved – was the really good mixture of the comedy and also the very real, honest moments between all the characters,” Callie says. “There was such a good balance of being able to connect with the audience through just Eric’s relationship with his parents and Eric’s relationship with the other kids, and just how all of them handled that. I really hope that our show also captures that.”
The actress’ wealth of knowledge regarding That ‘70s Show is a fairly recent achievement, as she never saw the original series before she booked That ‘90s Show.
“I have this very vague memory of going into my brother’s bedroom and sitting on his bed and watching it because he’s a very big fan of it. All my siblings are. But I didn’t really know what it was when I first got the audition. My siblings were super excited and told me all about it.” She says, “During the original audition process, I looked up as many clips as I could on YouTube and tried to find as much as I possibly could to get the vibes of the show. Then I think after my director and writer Zoom session, I started watching the whole series and just fell in love with it.”
Callie laughs when she recalls meeting some of the cast for the first time, at first saying it was incredible before adding through her laughter that it was very intimidating. “At first, we had Zoom table reads before we actually would film the episodes or do rehearsals or anything. So I kind of knew them through that and we said hi to each other and met each other. At first, I was very nervous. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I kind of feel like an imposter being here, and they’re gonna be watching me!’” Her worries were unfounded. “They were all so incredible and they were all very supportive with the whole process and supportive of all of us kids and very kind to all of us. They made us feel very comfortable.”
She laughs again as she says, “I was not scared after the initial introduction to all of them. It was very comfortable when we were filming.”
What I really admire [about Leia] is she’s taking control of her situation.
Of the conversations she’s had with legacy cast members, Callie shares about one regarding their characters, “Of course we had conversations about what everyone was up to during the ‘90s and what all of us are doing. You see how they’re all living their lives and you learn things about each of our characters. I think my relationship with Donna and Eric, we definitely talked about and developed that as we would film scenes together. We [would] work together through rehearsals. With Debra Jo [Rupp] and Kurtwood [Smith], them trying to figure out their relationship with a granddaughter. Me, separating the different relationships with each cast member and figuring out how I’d handle that. Yeah, we did kind of go into that and delve into that a little bit.”
Having Debra Jo and Kurtwood as your fictional grandparents is something some kids can only dream of. “I love them and I feel like in the duration of filming, we grew super close.” The actress adds, “I think all of us cast members, all the other kids as well, we all just formed a family.” That bond between them helped the scenes between Leia and her grandparents be very easy for her to film, according to Callie. “They were always very supportive,” she continues. “I don’t even know how to put it into words; it was amazing. We were very comfortable. It was surreal being able to work with them, but we definitely developed our relationship as we went along and figured out how to make it work. They taught me lots of things along the way [too].”
Callie’s journey to becoming Leia started with her audition.
“I got the original audition and, as you know, I didn’t really know much about the show so of course I found clips on YouTube and started to watch it [to] feel the vibes. Obviously I’m playing Donna and Eric’s daughter, so I wanted to see how their dynamic worked and how they acted. We all have mannerisms that we inherit from our parents.” She adds that she also studied Debra Jo and Kurtwood as their characters of Kitty and Red, respectively, and their mannerisms as well. “My overall thing that I wanted to focus on was just the overall feeling of the show and how the audience felt while they were watching it. Not necessarily trying to recreate the old show,” she clarifies. “It was like I had to tie in Leia’s personality with Eric and Donna’s mannerisms and different things like that. Then I went into a lot of Zoom chemistry reads, producer-director sessions, and then I booked it.”
The smile that graces her face is one of pride at her achievement. Actors are well aware of how grueling the auditioning process can be and Callie’s pride in her work is well-deserved.
She laughs when she recalls the moment she found out she got the part. “It was extremely surreal. I was actually on a bus coming home from school and I kept getting a call. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it!’ Like my heart was beating so fast, I was like, this doesn’t normally happen. I was walking back to my house from the bus stop and it was my first time ever being alone when I found out I booked a role, so I was trying to run home to get to my parents so that they could hear the same thing.” Thankfully her mom was coming home from work at that exact time. “She pulled into the driveway and I remember being overfilled with joy and I just started sobbing,” she says with another laugh. “We fell into the front yard and honestly, we sat there for like an hour on the phone with my manager, just talking about it. It was… it was an incredible moment.”
Leia, she says, is a perfect balance of her parents. “But she definitely has a little bit of a rebellious side that peeks through. She’s coming into her teen years and wanting change. She’s trying to find herself and grow into this person.” Callie continues, “I think when she goes to Point Place and she meets the new kids, she sees how much she’s been missing out on.” Up until the summer of 1995, most of Leia’s life consisted of debate club, playing instruments, and embracing her nerdy side, all things she enjoys, but Point Place shows her there’s more for her. “Now she’s like, I wanna really live,” she says.
“I was able to connect with that myself because I’m from Texas, so coming to California and being able to meet all these people, all these kids that wanted the exact same thing as me, was a really great experience. It was like I found my people and Leia did the same thing during the show and I grew with her.”
Callie recalls having a conversation with Lindsay Turner one day. “She was like, ‘It looks like you’re really coming into your own, kind of like how Leia is.’ So we’re a lot alike in that regard.” She adds with a quick laugh that Leia is also snarky as well as excited to make these new friends. “She’s a great kid,” she jokes.
“What I really admire [about Leia] is she’s taking control of her situation, which I really love. I think it’s great how we can see her making these relationships and making her life better, almost, and really taking control of that. I love that because I don’t know if I would have that much bravery to leave everything I’ve known behind and move to Wisconsin for the summer and have a bunch of fun. I love that about her.”
When it comes to favorite episodes of That ‘90s Show’s first season, Callie divides her answer into two: her favorite to film and her favorite overall.
“My favorite episode to film was probably episode six, which has a large variety of very interesting, different things that happened. Some fantasy sequences,” she teases. “That one was just really fun to film because it went by so fast because we were constantly working and constantly having exciting things to film.” Looking back at the season and having watched all the episodes, she says overall, “My favorite episode is probably episode eight because that one was our last episode that we filmed. We had to go back and film that one,” she explains. “So that one’s really bittersweet because I think it’s the first time that you really see all the kids connecting with each other and being able to just be real and have their little moments with each other in different times. I really enjoy that, and yeah, that one was just very bittersweet to watch.”
To round out the first part of her interview with TEENPLICITY, Callie discusses the dynamic between Gwen and Leia, a hot topic in TEENPLICITY’s ask box. It’s a topic she maneuvers with ease, focusing on the friendship between the two girls first, though there’s probably no question she’s away of the shipping already going on.
(At the mention of the numerous Tumblr and Reddit questions submitted for her, Callie is grateful to have such an interest in the show before its even premiered.)
“I really love Leia and Gwen’s relationship because it’s a very real look on the female relationships that we don’t really see because I feel like there’s a lot of cattiness and drama, and Leia and Gwen don’t have that,” she shares. “It’s just a very real, raw relationship of them going through the same things. Leia really admires Gwen’s life and the way she’s taken control of it, so I think that kind of fuels their relationship and they’re immediate friends. That’s pretty much what I have to say about that,” she concludes with a laugh. Callie does add for all viewers, “There’s a lot of different little relationships an things that go on that you’ll see when you watch.”
That ‘90s Show is set to premiere Thursday, January 19th on Netflix!
For all things Callie Haverda, be sure to follow her on Instagram!