Sitcom Legend Debra Jo Rupp on Her ‘WandaVision’ Role as Mrs. Hart
The third episode of Disney+’s time-hopping Marvel romp WandaVision drops January 22 with a sense of creeping dread as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and android Vision (Paul Bettany) navigate the increasingly odd ways of Westview and their seemingly perfect marriage.
On Episode 1’s black-and-white 1950s sitcom set, things quickly go astray. When Wanda and Vision host Vision’s boss Mr. Hart, played by Fred Melame, and his wife, Mrs. Hart, That ’70s Show alum Debra Jo Rupp, for dinner, Harts question Wanda and Vision about their backstory — completely baffling the two Avengers, who can’t recall a thing. When Mr. Hart chokes, the whole episode feels like a trip down the rabbit hole. Rupp takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster as Mrs. Hart repeats the phrase “stop it” to her struggling husband while she showcases varying levels of distress and enjoyment — without moving an inch. The disturbing scene is a major clue that someone is pulling the strings — but who?
We chat with Rupp, who tells us we’ll see her in more episodes, about that dinner scene, how her great nephew strong-armed her into the role, and more.
Your casting is perfect. Who called who?
Debra Jo Rupp: Thank you! I got a phone call one afternoon from the director, Matt Shakman, and Jac [Schaeffer], the executive producer/writer. I know Matt from his theater in LA. They asked me to do this, and he sort of presented it as a sitcom, but with something else going on. I absolutely did not understand what he was talking about — I didn’t know Marvel very well — and I said I had to think about it. I talked to my family about it and my great-nephew Johnny said, “If you do not take this job, Aunt Debbie, I will never speak to you again.” I told them yes — and it’s one of the best yes’s that I’ve said in my life.
Did you get a lot of direction when Mrs. Hart is repeating “stop it” — 13 times, as fans have pointed out on the internet?
It was really complicated. The director had to talk to me several times before I understood what I was supposed to do. And then, on my days off shooting in Atlanta, I watched the [Marvel] movies and then [things changed]; I got very involved. I was more aware of the possibilities of what this could be. And doing the sitcom, and then having the real world interfere with the sitcom, and doing both at the same time was so unbelievably fun, I cannot tell you.
How much do you know about the larger story that’s going on? Do they clue all the actors in?
I did a lot of spying. I asked a lot of questions. I think I have a handle on it. What I don’t have are the details, and that’s what I love about this. Those little moments that make you go, “What?!” I usually don’t watch myself, but this one I’m watching.
Would you mind channeling Kitty Forman, and describe WandaVision in her words?
[In Kitty’s voice] “Oh, Red, look at how those people are pulling the strings to stir their cake mix — look at that, Red — oh my gosh, oh, that might be a monster, Red!”
WandaVision, Fridays, Disney+