Debra Jo Rupp is a very well-liked American character actress best remembered for her appealing roles as Alice Knight-Buffay in Friends’ third, fourth, and fifth seasons and as the cheery, lovable mother Kitty Forman in the hit Fox comedy “That ’70s Show.” She also received praise for her work as Mae in the 1990 Kathleen Turner movie “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and for playing Katie, Jerry Seinfeld’s booking agent on the television series “Seinfeld.” Her acting career began on stage and in television advertisements, and to date, she has appeared in more than 300 television programs and motion pictures. She is equally adept at humor and drama. The off-Broadway and local theatre show that Rupp adored were constant examples of her stage enthusiasm. She is a very versatile performer who, in addition to providing voices for animated films and television shows, has played a wide variety of roles.
Early Childhood & Life
Debra Jo Rupp was born on February 24, 1951, in Glendale, California, but her strict parents sent her and her two sisters to be raised as Southern Baptists in Boxford, Massachusetts.
She graduated in 1969 from Boxford’s “Masconomet Regional High School” where she had attended. Debra’s parents were adamantly opposed to her plans to pursue acting studies. Because the university at the time did not provide theater education, she was sent to New York to study at the University of Rochester, New York.
Fortunately, the university established a dramatics department during her first year. As a member of Drama House, a small theatrical group in school, she participated actively in on-campus dramatic events while taking acting classes.
After earning her B.A. in 1974, Debra came to New York to begin her acting career on the advice of her professors.
Debra Rupp’s Career
Debra arrived in New York City. Jo Rupp kept busy by giving theatrical performances and making several commercial appearances. She portrayed Helen, a cheating husband’s wife, in Sharon Tipsword’s one-act comedy “Second Verse” at a Nat Horne Theater drama festival in 1980.
It took her six years to get her first television job, which she got in the daytime soap “All My Children” in 1980 as the topless dancer Shelia. In the 1985 production of “The Middle Ages,” directed by A. R. Gurney and presented by the Olympia Dukakis-founded Whole Theater Company in Montclair, New Jersey, Debra portrayed the role of a young bride.
Walter Goodman of the New York Times gave her portrayal of an unappreciated young wife in Arthur Laurents’ “The Time of the Cuckoo” a very positive review.
Other notable performances from this period include Cynthia Heimel’s “A Girl’s Guide to Chaos,” which earned her praise from famed caricaturist Al Hirschfield, and Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” a two-character drama.
Debra committed herself to act during the 1980s, working both on stage and in television productions. In the comedy “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, she finally scored her first part in a major motion picture. She was cast as Miss Patterson, Josh Baskins’ shy secretary.
Upon her return to New York City in 1990, Debra appeared as “Mae” with Kathleen Turner in the Eugene O’Neill Theatre’s Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Early in the 1990s, she appeared in a number of TV episodes, some of the more popular ones being “Davis Rules with Randy Quaid,” “Phenom,” “Family Matters,” “Blossom,” and “L.A. Law.”
The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Invaders, a Seinfeld episode, and the stage production Broken Bones at Hollywood’s “Met Theater” all contributed to 1995’s hectic schedule.
Debra Jo Rupp gained worldwide acclaim for her three seasons as Alice Knight in the television series “Friends,” but it was her performance as the spunky Kitty Forman in the hit comedy series “That ’70s Show” that brought her the most popularity.
She appeared in the eleventh episode of the Emmy Award-winning television miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon,” which was produced by Tom Hanks and directed by Sally Fields.
Debra, a versatile performer, provided Mrs. Helperman’s voice for the Disney animated series “Teacher’s Pet” in 2000 and for the 2004 film adaptation.
Her stand-up comedy act in Susan Kraker and Pi Ware’s 2004 short film “The Act” won attention. The movie was a recognized entry at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win other accolades at international film festivals. In the independent feature film “Lucky 13” the same year, Debra portrayed Brad Hunt’s annoying mother.
Rupp frequently visited Massachusetts and New York for off-Broadway and local stage shows since she adored the theater. She portrayed Dotty Otley in Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” (2004) and a quirky mother in “Ring Round the Moon” (2006), both of which were set in Massachusetts.
In June 2007, Judith Ivey’s Second Stage Theatre production of “The Butcher of Baraboo,” starring Debra as Valerie, was presented to New Yorkers. In August of the same year, she performed in a revival of the Paul Osborn play “Morning’s at Seven” at the “Berkshire Theatre Festival.”
Rupp made an appearance in an episode of the well-known criminal thriller “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” after “That ’70s Show” finished in 2006.
She appeared in two films—”Kickin’ It Old Skool” and “Jackson”—as well as the daytime drama “As the World Turns” in 2007 and 2008. She portrayed a variety of roles, which showed her versatility. In 2008, she performed in the plays “A Flea in Her Ear” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” in Massachusetts.
She portrayed Ruth in the romantic comedy “She Wants Me” in 2012, and she also featured as “Dr. Ruth Westheimer” in “Dr. Ruth – All the Way” for the Barrington Stage Company.
Debra featured in Bekah Brunstetter’s play “The Cake” in 2017, which was about a North Carolina Southern Baptist baker who must prepare a cake for a surrogate niece’s wedding. As her niece marries another woman, Della, the conservative character portrayed by Rupp, must overcome her social inhibitions.
Debra’s Bigger Works
Rupp’s first great hit, “A Girl’s Guide to Chaos,” also garnered her critical recognition and opened doors for her career on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Friends provided her widespread exposure and financial success, while “That ’70s Show” established Debra as a household name. Debra’s personal life Currently single, Jo Rupp splits her time between Lee, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles.
Estimated Net Worth
American actress Debra Jo Rupp has a $5 million dollar net worth. She works in both film and television. Debra Jo Rupp was born in Glendale, California, raised in Massachusetts, and later earned a degree from the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
Debra Jo Rupp is an excellent cook, although her preference is for grilling over baking. She is well known for her exclusive clam dip.
Angela Lansbury’s Broadway production of Sweeny Todd persuaded Rupp’s mother of the reasons behind her daughter’s enthusiasm for acting.
Rupp enjoys gardening a lot. She prefers to live a laid-back country lifestyle with her two dogs and other foodies.