The following interview for Backstage’s on-camera series The Slate was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming interviews and to submit your questions.
He’s best known for his role as the beloved Eric Forman on Fox’s long-running period sitcom “That ’70s Show,” but Topher Grace has been racking up his screen credits in the two decades since. From blockbuster feature films like “Spider-Man 3” to critically acclaimed dramas like “BlacKkKlansman” to thoughtful romantic comedies like “In Good Company,” Grace’s skills as a performer allow him to act in just about anything. He is now returning to the sitcom scene as Tom on ABC’s new series, “Home Economics,” which he also executive produces. Sitting for an Instagram Live with Backstage, he reflected on his career both past and present and shared his tips for creating an acting career that lasts.
Grace was passionate about building a special cast for his new show.
“You know, you wanna see if you have that chemistry. It’s hard enough to find it between two people, but in a group of five, it’s really magical when it comes together like that. I always think about dating: There are a lot of projects you do where it’s a lot of great actors but you don’t feel that magic. Sometimes, you go on 100 dates, maybe you have chemistry with one person or maybe nobody. But somehow these five people came together, and I’ve been on a dream team like that before, and I’m just so thrilled to be on another one.”
He values diversity in his work.
“I had just played David Duke in ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ and then I had done ‘Black Mirror’ where I played kind of the evil tech-wizard. I was very happy to do those two projects, to work with Spike Lee and to work with Charlie Brooker was fantastic. But I was getting a lot of, like, white supermacist roles, and like, neo-Nazis. But when I left ‘’70s Show,’ I wanted to do stuff that was really different from that character, not ’cause I didn’t like that character, but just ’cause I wanted to try everything. That was my first acting gig, so I’m so happy that I’ve been able to do big budget movies, and very tiny budget movies and played good guys and bad guys. I mean I love it all. But it was getting [to be] my eighth neo-Nazi role that I was like: You know what? Maybe I could do something a little closer to what I did on ‘’70s Show’ now.”
He didn’t have an “acting process” until later in his career.
“At the beginning, I was just trying to make it as real as possible. I didn’t have a process, and I wouldn’t say I have a full one now. But I did a movie with Paul Weitz [‘In Good Company’] and then he kinda forced me to come do a play in New York a couple years ago. Paul Weitz is a great writer, director, just amazingly creative guy. When I did the play [‘Lonely, I’m Not’ in 2012], I had a whole education as to what acting really is. And I would say my career has been kind of pre- when I did that play, and post- when I did it. There’s an element of live audience acting when you’re doing a sitcom, you know, there’s an audience there and you see what they’ll laugh at. But with the play, I had three or four weeks of rehearsal and the script was so tight and well-written, and I had just never gotten that deep into a character before. And then you perform it, 100–200 times. So when it came to, like, ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ and a film I did called ‘Truth’ with Cate Blanchett, and the film ‘War Machine,’ I have a total different approach now. I’m just way more rehearsed by the time I show up.”
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