Topher Grace: ‘Playing a villain is much more fun’

The That ‘70s Show actor talks of his return to being the nice guy in ‘Home Economics’

Published - November 26, 2022 12:37 pm IST

Topher Grace in a still from ‘Home Economics’

Topher Grace in a still from ‘Home Economics’

The third season of the sitcom Home Economics has the family visiting Disneyland. “It looks like fun and was way more fun to do,” says Topher Grace who plays Tom, an author in the show. Speaking over a video call from his home office in Los Angeles, the 44-year-old actor elaborates, “To get paid to go to Disneyland for a whole week was amazing. This cast is exceptionally close. We would work on the rides and then go together as friends on other rides. We got to be in Disneyland when it shut down at night when no one else was there.”

Talking about the scene in The Millennium Falcon, Topher says, “The first five times we did it, we thought this is the most fun ride ever. It is so great that you get to steer the Millennium Falcon. And then around the 50th time they were running this simulation, Jimmy (Tatro) who plays my brother, Connor, turned to me and said it is starting to feel like work. (laughs)

Frame of reference

The That ‘70s Show actor says he read the script creators Michael Colton and John Aboud wrote a couple years ago. “I signed on to do it right before the pandemic started. During the pandemic, I thought, a lot of stuff has changed. I really loved this script, but I wondered if it’ll have the same resonance.”

Once the pandemic curbs were lifted, Topher realised that what the show was saying was important. “It spoke of not just your place in the world, but your place in the world compared to your relatives. It is amazing to me that there have not been more shows about brothers and sisters. You compare yourself to your siblings, they are your original frame of reference.”

Fair play

Home Economics, Topher says, is about fairness. “When we start our life, these are our original relationships. Now that I have kids, I realise my kids are comparing themselves not just to each other, but also their parents. My character thinks it is fair that his younger brother has millions of dollars more than him, but his sister does not think so.”

People like to watch shows, Topher says, about people who have a strong connection with a dash of drama.

Let it role

Topher Grace in a still from ‘Home Economics’

Topher Grace in a still from ‘Home Economics’

Admitting that he does not put a lot of thought into choosing his roles Topher says, there is no way an actor can decide which projects would materialise. “The projects happen and they ask you if you want to be part of it. Like in this case, I had just done a film called BlacKkKlansman (2018) where I played a really evil guy and I had played Billy Bauer in the ‘Smithereens’ episode of Black Mirror, who is also an evil guy. I was starting to get offers for white supremacists and other evil people.”

Having started his career playing nice guys, Topher says, “I thought maybe I went a little too far with bad guys, so it would be nice to play a good guy again. Playing a villain is much more fun though because there are fewer rules.”

Easy does it

Tom is one of the best looking guys in the world, Topher says with a laugh. “He is a great looking, sexy guy.” Getting serious, Topher says, “In a way I have an easier road than some of the other characters. Tom is in the middle of everything, middle class and between his brother and sister. The hard roles are making somebody who is multimillionaire likable, or someone like Sarah (Caitlin McGee), who is on her soapbox all the time, relatable.”

Being an executive producer on the show, it was important for Topher to be a part of the casting process. “I know what it is like to be with a Dream-Team type cast. As people came in and read for the roles, I started to realise, that these are really difficult roles and it would take a talented cast to make it work.”

All-star team

There is no star of the show, Topher explained. “These five people are the stars of the show. It is like dating. You can say I think these two people would be a good match, but you don’t know if they will click until they go out on a date. The same thing is true about a cast like this. You don’t know until it really happens whether you have that special connection.”

If that connection is there, Topher says, it gets better with every episode. “I enjoyed working from the first episode, but it just gets stronger and stronger as everyone gets better. It is like a sports team. You learn what each person does best and go with it.”

Ensemble casts are in Topher’s comfort zone. “Tom Hanks’ Cast Away (2000) would be my nightmare. I would hate to be in that kind of a movie. I would feel like he feels, alone on an island.”

Home Economics is currently streaming on Lionsgate Play

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