Debra Jo Rupp
Rupp in 2019
|Born||February 24, 1951|
Glendale, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, voice actress, comedienne|
Debra Jo Rupp (born February 24, 1951) is an American actress and comedienne best known for her roles as Kitty Forman on the Fox sitcom That '70s Show and Alice Knight-Buffay on the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Friends. She voiced Mary Helperman in the animated series Teacher's Pet and its sequel film, as well as playing timid secretary Miss Patterson in Big (1988).
Rupp was born in Glendale, California, in the family of Margaret A. Williams Rupp and John E. Rupp Jr., and raised in Boxford, Massachusetts, where she attended Masconomet Regional High School, graduating in 1969. She has two sisters Robin Lee Rupp and Rebecca Louise Rupp.
Rupp always dreamed to be an actress, but her parents were firmly opposed to the idea. They even sent her to the University of Rochester in New York because it offered no theater classes. But the school added a Drama department in Rupp's freshman year. On campus, she was an active member of Drama House, a small theater club and venue. After graduation with a B.A. degree in 1974, she moved to New York to begin her acting career.
Rupp left Massachusetts in 1979 to pursue an acting career in New York City. She frequently performed on stage and appeared in commercials before winning her first television role in 1980 as Sheila, a topless dancer, on the daytime drama All My Children. Earlier in the same year, Rupp played Helen, the wife of a cheating husband, in Sharon Tipsword's one-act comedy Second Verse, produced as part of a play festival at New York's Nat Horne Theater.
Another notable stage performance was as the young bride Eleanor in the 1985 production of A. R. Gurney's The Middle Ages at the Whole Theater Company, established by Olympia Dukakis in Montclair, New Jersey.
She garnered praise from Walter Goodman in a New York Times review of one of her many off-Broadway performances: as June Yeager, a young wife who feels she is never "loved enough", in the 1986 York Theater Company production of Arthur Laurents' dramatic play, The Time of the Cuckoo staged at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York's Upper East Side.
Rupp's list of stage credits includes appearances in Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and Cynthia Heimel's A Girl's Guide to Chaos, the Broadway role which propelled her career forward. She originated the role of Cynthia in 1986, a character based on Heimel's observations made during her stints as a columnist for Playboy and The Village Voice. Directed by Wynn Handman and sharing the stage with Rita Jenrette, Rupp's performance as Cynthia was immortalized by legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld and described in a New York Times review as "an appealing mixture of pluck and pathos." In his review of Chaos, New York Newsday theater critic Allan Wallach called Rupp “a real find.”
In early 1987, Rupp was featured in an article written by Enid Nemy for the "Broadway" section of The New York Times. Entitled "New York is beckoning, but first, Los Angeles", the interview revealed how Rupp's success in the theater so soon after her arrival in New York City had scared the young actress enough to take time off from acting for several years. After returning to the stage, Rupp explained, she was often cast as an ingénue, but after her portrayal of Cynthia in Chaos, she began getting calls to audition in Los Angeles for "really crazy neurotic" parts in television pilots. She was realistic about the unpredictability of an acting career, and since she had promised her mother she would never wait tables when she left for New York, she had not given up her part-time work as a bookkeeper and was "learning computers" as something to fall back on.
Rupp continued to devote herself to acting full-time through the 1980s and performed in numerous regional stage productions. One such production was Sherry Kramer's Wall of Water in New Haven, Connecticut, at the Yale Repertory Theatre's Winterfest play festival of 1988. She guest-starred on numerous television shows, including Kate & Allie, Spenser for Hire, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. In 1988, Rupp landed her first feature-film role as Miss Patterson, the timid secretary of Tom Hanks' Josh Baskins, in the comedy Big.
In 1990, Rupp returned to New York City to perform in a Broadway stage production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Kathleen Turner at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. In it, Rupp portrayed Mae (Sister Woman). Her television work during the early 1990s included recurring roles as Ms. Higgins on the television Davis Rules with Randy Quaid, and as Sister Mary Incarnata on Phenom with Judith Light, as well as guest roles on Blossom, Family Matters, L.A. Law, and ER.
In 1995, she began her stint as Jeff Foxworthy's sister-in-law Gayle on The Jeff Foxworthy Show, and also appeared in the science fiction miniseries The Invaders with Scott Bakula, portrayed Jerry Seinfeld's eccentric booking agent Katie on an episode of Seinfeld (a role she reprised in 1996), and performed on stage as Meg in Broken Bones, a dark drama about spousal abuse by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, as part of a one-act play festival at Hollywood's Met Theater. She also provided the voice of Lana Lionheart in the "MGM Sing-Alongs" Videos back in 1997.
She appeared in several episodes of Friends as Alice Knight, a home economics teacher who fell in love with and married Phoebe Buffay's (Lisa Kudrow) much younger half-brother, Frank Jr. (Giovanni Ribisi). (Rupp had previously appeared with Kudrow in the 1997 independent film Clockwatchers.)
In 1998, she began her role as Kitty Forman in the comedy series, That '70s Show, her most successful role to date. She also portrayed Marilyn See, wife of astronaut Elliot See, in episode 11 of the Emmy Award-winning television miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, produced by Tom Hanks and directed by Sally Field.
Her distinctive voice was heard as the character of Mrs. Helperman in Disney's animated series Teacher's Pet in 2000, and again for the 2004 movie version. She starred as a stand-up comic with a secret in the highly acclaimed independent short film The Act, directed by Susan Kraker and Pi Ware, and received praise for her performance. The short film was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival and won several awards at film festivals around the world. In 2004, she played Brad Hunt's nagging mother in Lucky 13, a full-length independent film starring Lauren Graham. She returned to All My Children for one episode in December 2005, playing a homeless woman named Victoria.
Rupp has often returned to Massachusetts and New York to appear in regional and off-Broadway stage productions. In 2004, she played Dotty Otley in Michael Frayn's Noises Off at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts. In 2006, she appeared on stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts as a kooky mother in French playwright Jean Anouilh's comedy Ring Round the Moon at Barrington Stage Company.
New York theater-goers saw Rupp return to the off-Broadway stage in June 2007, as Valerie in the Second Stage Theatre production of Marisa Wegrzyn's The Butcher of Baraboo, directed by Judith Ivey. Two months later, she performed in the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as Ida Bolton in a revival of Paul Osborn's 1939 play, Morning's at Seven.
That '70s Show ended in 2006. Rupp appeared soon after in a dramatic television role as the wife of a murdered pharmaceutical CEO, on the crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In the episode, entitled "Infiltrated", Rupp's character desperately attempts to hide her slain husband's past sexual abuses. In early 2007, the feature film Kickin It Old Skool was released, in which Rupp was cast as Jamie Kennedy's mother. In 2008, she appeared as a restaurant owner who helps two homeless men in the comedy-drama-musical, Jackson, written and directed by J. F. Lawton. In the same year, she returned to daytime television in a guest role on As the World Turns.
Massachusetts theater-goers saw Rupp onstage in 2008, playing Olympia in Georges Feydeau's 1907 farce A Flea in Her Ear, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, and as Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.
In 2012, Rupp portrayed Ruth in She Wants Me, an independent romantic comedy. In June and July 2012, Rupp starred as Dr. Ruth Westheimer in "Dr. Ruth – All the Way" on the St. Germain Stage of the Barrington Stage Company. She reprised the role Off-Broadway in Becoming Dr. Ruth. She provided the voice of Mrs. Snowman in one of Fred Meyer's commercial ads in 2013.
She has two homes, one in Lee, Massachusetts, where she stays when she is doing theatrical projects in New York and another one in Los Angeles where she stays during television and film projects. She has never been married and has no children. She has mentioned through an interview that she is a Methodist.
|1985||The Middle Ages||Eleanor||The Whole Theater|
|1986||The Time of the Cuckoo||June Yeager||York Theatre Company|
|1987||A Girl's Guide To Chaos||Cynthia||American Place Theater|
|1988||The Wall of Water||Meg||Yale Repertory Theatre|
|1990||Cat on a Hot Tin Roof||Mae||Eugene O'Neill Theatre||Broadway debut|
|2004||Noises Off||Dotty Otley||Cape Playhouse|
|2006||Ring Round the Moon||Isabelle's Mother||Barrington Stage Company|
|2007||The Butcher of Baraboo||Valerie||Second Stage Theater|
|2007||Morning's at Seven||Ida||Berkshire Theatre Festival|
|2008||A Flea in Her Ear||Olympia||Williamstown Theatre Festival|
|2008||To Kill A Mockingbird||Miss Maudie||Barrington Stage Company|
|2009||True West||Mom||Williamstown Theatre Festival|
|2012||Dr. Ruth, All the Way||Dr. Ruth||Barrington Stage Company|
|2013||Becoming Dr. Ruth||Dr. Ruth||TheaterWorks Hartford|
|2013||Becoming Dr. Ruth||Dr. Ruth||Westside Theatre||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance (nomination)
Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance (nomination)
|2016||Kimberly Akimbo||Kimberly Levaco||Barrington Stage Company|
|2016||Love Letters||Melissa Gardner||Barrington Stage Company|
|2017||The Cake||Della||The Echo Theater Company||Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award: Lead Performance
Ovation Award: Lead Actress in a Play
|2018||The Cake||Della||Barrington Stage Company|
|2018||The Cake||Della||Geffen Playhouse|
|2019||The Cake||Della||Manhattan Theatre Club||Drama League Award: Distinguished Performance (nomination)|
|2019||Time Flies and Other Comedies||performer||Barrington Stage Company|
|2020||Three Viewings||performer||Barrington Stage Company||virtual staged reading|
|1992||Death Becomes Her||Psychiatric Patient|
|1996||Sgt. Bilko||Mrs. Hall|
|1997||MGM Sing-Alongs: Searching for Your Dreams||Lana Lionheart||Short film; voice role|
|1997||MGM Sing-Alongs: Having Fun||Lana Lionheart||Short film; voice role|
|1997||MGM Sing-Alongs: Friends||Lana Lionheart||Short film; voice role|
|1997||MGM Sing-Alongs: Being Happy||Lana Lionheart||Short film; voice role|
|1998||Senseless||Fertility Clinic Assistant|
|2004||Teacher's Pet||Mrs. Mary Lou Moira Angela Darling Helperman||Voice role|
|2004||Garfield||Mom Rat||Voice role|
|2004||The Act||Rosy Marconi||Short film|
|2005||Lucky 13||Mrs. Baker|
|2006||Air Buddies||Belinda||Direct-to-video; voice role|
|2007||Kickin' It Old Skool||Sylvia Schumacher|
|2010||She's Out of My League||Mrs. Kettner|
|2011||Spooky Buddies||Zelda||Direct-to-video; voice role|
|2012||She Wants Me||Ruth Baum|
|2013||Super Buddies||Cow||Direct-to-video; voice role|
|2014||The Opposite of Sex||Tracy|
|2019||Fair Market Value||Carol Coogan|
|2019||The Social Ones||Sheila Berger|
|1987||Spenser: For Hire||Helen||Episode: "Gone Fishin'"|
|1987||Kate & Allie||Toy Store Clerk||Episode: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"|
|1988||The Equalizer||Marge||Episode: "Regrets Only"|
|1988||The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd||Waitress||Episode: "Here's What Happened to That Earring You Lost"|
|1989||Mothers, Daughters and Lovers||Lottie||Television film|
|1989||Newhart||Irene Sadler||Episode: "Ramblin' Michael Harris"|
|1990||Grand||Cheryl Ann||Episode: "The Pretty Good Mother"|
|1991||Davis Rules||Ms. Higgins||Recurring role; 10 episodes|
|1991–1994||Empty Nest||Danielle / Dr. Simmons / Claire||Guest role; 3 episodes|
|1991||Civil Wars||Florence Herrigan||Episode: "Have Gun, Will Unravel"|
|1992||A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story||Alice||Television film|
|1992||Blossom||Lucy Robinson||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|1993||Family Matters||Miss Connors||Episode: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad House"|
|1993||Evening Shade||Mrs. Holloway||Episode: "Teaching Is a Good Thing"|
|1993||In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco||Dorrie||Television film|
|1993–1994||Phenom||Sister Mary Incarnata||Recurring role; 6 episodes|
|1993||The Odd Couple: Together Again||Plaza Asst. Manager||Television film|
|1993||L.A. Law||Gretchen Tomba||Episode: "Pacific Rimshot"|
|1994||MacShane: Winner Takes All||Alice||Television film|
|1994||The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||Ms. Plowright||Episode: "Stagecoach"|
|1994||MacShane: The Final Roll of the Dice||Alice||Television film|
|1994||Hearts Afire||Brenda Swain||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|1994||Diagnosis: Murder||Dr. Nora Stebbings||Episode: "The Busy Body"|
|1995||The Office||Beth Avery||Recurring role; 6 episodes|
|1995||ER||Mrs. Dibble||Episode: "Men Plan, God Laughs"|
|1995–1996||Seinfeld||Katie||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|1995||If Not for You||Eileen||Recurring role; 7 episodes|
|1995||The Invaders||Rita||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|1995–1996||The Jeff Foxworthy Show||Gayle||Recurring role; 9 episodes|
|1996||High Incident||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|1996||Caroline in the City||Melody||Episode: "Caroline and the Red Sauce"|
|1997||Crisis Center||Marilyn||Recurring role; 4 episodes|
|1997–1998||Friends||Alice Knight Buffay||Recurring role; 6 episodes|
|1997||7th Heaven||June McKinley||Episode: "See You in September"|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Mayor Risa Hoigard||Episode: "Jones vs. God"|
|1997||Over the Top||Rose||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Marilyn See||Television mini-series|
|1998||To Have and To Hold||Margaret Jarrod||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1998–2006||That '70s Show||Kitty Forman||Main role; 200 episodes|
|2000–2002||Teacher's Pet||Ms. Mary Lou Moira Angela Darling Helperman||Recurring role, 11 episodes; voice role|
|2001||The Hughleys||Karen Clark||Episode: "Daddy's Lil' Girl"|
|2004||The Tracy Morgan Show||Ms. Laneworthy||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|2005||Robot Chicken||Kitty Forman||Episode: "Gold Dust Gasoline"; voice role|
|2005||All My Children||Victoria||Episode: #1.9266|
|2006||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Debra Hartnell||Episode: "Infiltrated"|
|2008||As the World Turns||Edna Winklemeyer||Recurring role; 4 episodes|
|2010–2011||Better with You||Vicky Putney||Main role; 22 episodes|
|2013||Hart of Dixie||Besty Maynard||Episode: "Where I Lead Me"|
|2015||He's With Me||Alice Adams||Guest role; 2 episodes|
|2017||Elementary||Sheriff Malick||Episode: "Crowned Clown, Downtown Brown"|
|2017||NCIS: Los Angeles||Ginger||Episode: "Old Tricks"|
|2017–2020||The Ranch||Janice Phillips||Recurring role; 12 episodes|
|2017–2018||This Is Us||Linda||Guest role; 4 episodes|
|2018||I Feel Bad||Griff's Mom||Episode: "My Kid Has to Grow Up"|
|2019||Grey's Anatomy||Jo's Therapist||Episode: "Nothing Left to Cling To"|
|2021||WandaVision||Mrs. Heart||Upcoming miniseries|
- Debra Jo Rupp on IMDb
- Erica Brown, "AMC Nabs Rupp for Guest Role"[permanent dead link], soapoperadigest.com; accessed September 24, 2017.
- Michiko Kakutani, "Stage: 5 of the 'Best' Short Works at the Nat Horne", The New York Times, March 22, 1980; retrieved January 22, 2008.
- Alvin Klein. "The Middle Ages at the Whole Theatre", The New York Times, April 7, 1985; retrieved January 22, 2008.
- Walter Goodman, The Time of the Cuckoo Opening Night Cast Archived 2007-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, lortel.org; accessed September 24, 2017.
- "Stage: Michael Learned in Time of the Cuckoo" (January 21, 1986), The New York Times; retrieved January 22, 2008.
- Stephen Holden, "Stage: Cynthia Heimel Comedy, 'Guide to Chaos", The New York Times, December 14, 1986.
- Allan Wallach, "A Girl's Guide to Men and Sex in the '80s" (December 12, 1986), New York Newsday; retrieved February 24, 2008.
- Enid Nemy, "Broadway: New York is beckoning, but first, Los Angeles:, February 20, 1987, The New York Times; retrieved January 22, 2008.
- Alvin Klein, "4 Comedies on the Bill in Yale Rep Winterfest Series", The New York Times, January 24, 1988; retrieved February 24, 2008.
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Cast and Crew, ibdb.com; accessed September 24, 2017.
- Hoyt Hilsman, "Act One '95 Evening B Review" Daily Variety, June 7, 1995.
- The Act, theactmovie.com; accessed September 24, 2017.
- Alicia Blaisdell-Bannon, Entertainment Reviews: "Cast, energy propel 'Noises'" Archived 2012-06-30 at Archive.today, Cape Cod Times, July 8, 2004.
- Review by Frances Benn Hall for NewBerkshire.com Archived November 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- "The Butcher of Baraboo Opening Night Cast, Lortel Archives at the Internet Off-Broadway Database". Lortel.org. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- Matthew Murray, The Butcher of Baraboo: Theater Review, talkinbroadway.com, June 11, 2007.
- Jason Zinoman, THEATER REVIEW: "That Nice Midwestern Mom, the One Who's Handy With a Knife", nytimes.com, June 12, 2007.
- Mark Blankenship, The Butcher of Baraboo review, variety.com, June 12, 2007.
- Elyse Sommer, The Berkshire Theatre Festival's Summer 2007 Season, Curtain Up Reviews, August 24, 2007.
- J. Peter Bergman, Review Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine, berkshirebrightfocus.com, August 5, 2007.
- James Yeara, Review: Lovely Senior Moments Archived 2007-10-17 at the Wayback Machine, Metroland/net, August 9, 2007.
- "Reviews". BerkshireReview.net. October 24, 2008. Archived from the original on January 13, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
- Archived June 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Rooney, David (October 29, 2013). "'Becoming Dr. Ruth,' With Debra Jo Rupp, at Westside Theater" – via www.nytimes.com.
- "Well-Known Methodists, just to name a few..." Archived from the original on September 15, 2012.