Though Callie Haverda has been acting since she was six years old, she knows all too well what getting rejected feels like. But when the audition for Netflix’s show That ’90s Show came along, she was “super excited” since she had an instant attachment with the character of Leia Foreman, daughter of Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pincioti (Laura Prepon).
“When I read the script, I felt like I was reading something about myself and my own life. Even from the character description, I connected with her,” the rising star exclusively tells GRAZIA USA. “She’s a very personable type of character, but she’s very awkward. She’s similar to her mom and dad — she’s got her mom’s confidence but also her awkward and unsure side from her dad. She’s also her own person who is excited for this new life. She’s ready for adventure.”
The reboot, which premieres on Thursday, January 19, will bring back some of the characters from the original show, That ’70s Show, such as Grace, Prepon, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and more.
This time around, Haverda’s character will lead the new series as she spends the summer with her grandparents Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp). Prior to arriving on set, the actress made sure to watch all old episodes of the series — and she’s still watching, as she’s on season 6 right now — which was on television from 1998-2006. “I didn’t want Leia to be a carbon copy of her parents,” she declares. “Of course I wanted her to be her own person, but I also feel like we develop a lot of mannerisms and a lot of different things from our parents. I also got the vibes from the show and tied it all into my performance. I tried to make her as natural and relatable as possible.”
Since Haverda is so young and wasn’t around to watch the series when it premiered in the ’90s, her brother explained to her how important it was in the pop culture world. “It kind of got me a little scared because I was like, ‘Wow, these are huge shoes to fill!’ But I took it one step at a time and did the audition and hoped for the best,” she shares. “When I read through the script each week, I’d focus on the different feelings and things Leia was going through. Also, Debra Jo and Kurtwood were so supportive, in addition to the creators and writers. They were all so happy to be back, and I think that really helped us and made us feel more comfortable.”
Haverda also got to rely on Grace and Prepon, who knew what she was going through since they were also in their teens when they filmed the original series. “They would tell me to not to get in my head and stay true to yourself and true to your character,” she recalls.
“We filmed in front of a live studio audience, and it’s a completely different type of performance. I learned a lot from that,” she adds. “I would just watch Debra Jo and Kurtwood rehearse because they were all pros since they’ve been doing it for years. They definitely helped me with that and the technicalities of filming in front of a live studio audience.”
Working alongside Kutcher and Kunis, who got married in July 2015, was also something Haverda will never forget. “Anytime I’d hear them out in the hallway, I would hold my breath,” she admits. “I was so excited to meet them. They’re such great people — and working with them was just crazy. They said to me, ‘Hi, I’m Mila, and hi, I’m Ashton.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know who you are.’ It was incredible.”
“They were everything and more,” she gushes. “Wilmer [Valderrama] was also hilarious. He was constantly bringing new things to the show. He’d ad-lib, which was interesting to watch because he knows his character so well. I really admired that. Since it’s a comedy, they all had fun with their lines and were able to try new things. They all welcomed us newbies with open arms. They were so happy for us to be there.”
As for why people should tune in, she says new and old fans will be able to connect with the material. “It’s a whole new decade with different music and nostalgic moments,” she notes. “The feelings and the relationships are similar to the old show. I think fans will like that.”
From a young age, Haverda knew she wanted to act. “I did my first commercial when I was five or six, and then I was like, ‘This is incredible. I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life,'” she quips.
Going forward, Haverda isn’t sure what her “dream role” would look like, but she hopes to be able to work with Wes Anderson, who is her favorite director.
For now, Haverda is looking forward to the future. “I’m excited for the show to come out. I am hoping another project will come along soon. I am hoping season 2 happens. I’ve also written a couple of short films, so I’d love something to happen with those. I’ve worked hard for this and persistence is key.”
“It’s all a dream come true. It’s still so surreal to me, and I still can’t comprehend the amount of people that are excited for the series,” she adds. “When I first started acting, it was a dream of mine to make it to this point where I have a TV show of my own. They recently released billboards all over Los Angeles with my face, and it’s insane. I’m so happy to be here and doing this.”
That ’90s Show premieres on Thursday, January 19, on Netflix.