TV Q&A: “That ’70s Show”‘s Laura Prepon

For three years, 21-year-old actress Laura Prepon has played the feisty Donna Pinciotti on the FOX sitcom That ’70s Show (airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET), but it won’t be long before she wears the title “movie star.” In January, Prepon will be starring alongside Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) in a new American Pie-style teen movie entitled Slackers. She remains committed to her hit series, of course, and though she’s a busy girl these days, Prepon spoke with us about her role on the sitcom, the upcoming Slackers, being a sex symbol and why polyester sucks.

Laura, how’s life these days?
Prepon:
Man, I’m sick right now, actually. I’ve got whatever it is that’s going around. But I feel pretty good right now.

Nothing a few shots of tequila can’t cure, I’m sure.
Prepon: [Laughs] Yeah, maybe so!

First off, congrats on the success of the show. Actually, you guys have had a very favorable timeslot this season, with competition like NBC’s Emeril, which is just plain bad. Have you seen that monstrosity?

Prepon: No, definitely haven’t seen that one. I mean, I try to watch some TV, but I’m lucky if I even get to see my show each week.

You guys have had some very creative episodes this season–a nice musical episode with [Wilmer Valderrama’s character] Fez and a ’50s-style flashback Halloween episode. Anything like that coming up this season?

Prepon: Ya know, we get scripts on Friday and run through ’em on Monday, so I never know what we’re going to do. But we must be doing something right. We’re getting the best ratings we’ve ever had.

You’ve had some training in jazz and ballet in the past. Will Donna be showing off any of those skills in the future?

Prepon:
[Laughs] I doubt it. They’re keeping Donna a tomboy for now. But yeah, I’ve taken ballet–it’s just not me, ya know?

One thing that makes your show so unique is the writing. Very fresh. Do you guys–Topher [Grace, who plays Eric Forman, Donna’s on-again off-again boyfriend], Ashton [Kutcher, who plays Kelso] and the gang–have any input into the scripts?

Prepon:
In our script run-throughs we give some feedback but we stay pretty close to what we’re given. It’s just such good stuff. I mean, so many more people are watching this show than when it began–a lot more attention is being paid.

Speaking of the scripts, do you have any storyline tidbits for us in terms of what will happen between Donna and Eric? You guys are such a roller coaster.
Prepon:
Actually, a lot more will be happening with Fez than with Eric and Donna. But that’s good. If you’ve ever broken up with someone, you know that so many new directions can be taken. There are so many possibilities, and we’re gonna take ’em.

I know you’ve said in the past that you really don’t like ’70s fashion. Is that still true or has it grown on ya?

Prepon:
It’s not that I really hate the clothes, I just don’t like all the polyester. And the bell-bottoms–the big ones–are pretty bad. Some of the stuff that Wilmer wears is bad. And Debra Jo [Rupp, who plays Kitty Forman]. But, I swear, they’re turning Donna into Annie Hall this season. More ties. More suits. But they’re also keeping her really motivated, ya know? Like, wanting to be a rock journalist. Wanting to be the first woman president.

Now, you personally have been labeled a sex symbol. What are your feelings about that?
Prepon:
Oh, god. The fact that anyone would find me sexy is very, very flattering, but ridiculous. I so don’t believe it. But I’m flattered. Truth is, I don’t lift a finger to look sexy. Ever.

Ashton’s also been called a sex symbol. Do you ever give him grief for that?
Prepon:
Hey, Ashton’s a cute guy. He is. Of course he’d be labeled a sex symbol. And he likes it. We’re different in that way.

Do you guys hang out in your spare time, or just keep it on the set?

Prepon:
Oh, we hang out all the time. We’re very close. Any day, any night–we’re together. We’re lucky.

There are a ton of new shows this season. Are you a fan of any of them?
Prepon:
Gosh, lemme think. Um, I’ve seen Undeclared once and I wish I could watch it more often. I’m a big Malcolm in the Middle fan, too. I love that show. Mostly, though, I watch HBO. I like Mind of the Married Man and Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I love Sex and the City and The Sopranos.

In January, you have a new film opening titled Slackers, a teen comedy. What sort of character do you play?
Prepon: She’s much different than Donna. She’s the kind of girl who always uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants. It’s a very sexual role.

It’s already being compared to American Pie. Would you say that’s accurate?

Prepon:
Wow. That’s great. I really don’t know–I tend to avoid screenings. I have a hard time watching myself act. I actually try not to watch our show. [Laughs] Actually, there was a screening of [Slackers] the other night and I told Topher not to go. I’m afraid I look like a huge dork or something.

Well, good luck with that in January. What’re you up to for the holidays?
Prepon:
Oh man, it’s so freaky you just asked me that! I just figured out what we’re doing yesterday. I called my mom and worked it all out. You see, I got a new house and we’re all going over there. Man, I’m, like, cooking for 15 people! It’s like, “Oh my god! I’m only 21 years old for crying out loud!”

Sounds like you’re sitting at the grown-up table this year.
Prepon: That’s true. Very true. I guess I am. I’m on my own and paying a mortgage. Gosh. But it’s cool. People don’t know that at heart, I’m Cindy Homemaker.

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