‘That ’90s Show’ Boss Says Part 2 Ramps Up Edgier Stories: ‘They Were Really Growing Up’

After introducing the teenage children of “That ’70s Show” icons in the first season of “That ’90s Show,” showrunner Gregg Mettler looked forward to telling “edgier” stories in the Netflix comedy’s second installment.

Set in summer 1996, Part 2, which is now streaming on Netflix, reunites Leia Forman (Callie Haverda) with her Point Place-based boyfriend Jay (Mace Coronel), and friends Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), Ozzie (Reyn Doi), Nikki (Sam Morelos) and Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan).

“The mission statement going into Part 2 was, let’s take advantage of the fact that everyone’s a year older, let’s start to tell more sophisticated stories — Let’s start to tell edgier stories with edgier topics,” Mettler told TheWrap. “The 16 episodes gave us an amazing opportunity to flesh out these characters in an unrushed way, and feel like they were really growing up.”

Whereas the freshman season sees Leia bracing herself for her first kiss, Part 2 dives into uncharted territory as the teens navigate sex, partying and betrayal, especially after Leia and Nate nearly kissed at the end of Season 1 and have been keeping it from their respective partners.

The tension of holding the secret is almost immediately released in the Part 2 premiere, a choice Mettler said was made in an effort to not have the drama linger too long and functioned as a way to “reset” the show.

“Right away, I was like, ‘let’s get into this,'” he said. “It’s juicy. It’s fun and people are interested, they want to see how things are going to turn out.”

Max Donovan, Sam Morelos, Callie Haverda, Reyn Doi, Mace Coronel, Niles Fitch and Ashley Aufderheide in “That ’90s Show.” (Netflix)

While the friends recover from the explosive secret, with Leia and Jay vowing to give their relationship a fresh start during a smoke circle, the almost-kiss prompts Nate and Nikki to evaluate their own issues, circling back to remnants of some problems first discussed in Season 1.

“There’s obviously love there between them, but they’re teenagers. They’re stumbling through this kind of thing — things come up and they react. They make mistakes, and they react poorly to certain things,” Mettler said. “It wasn’t a story convenience in Season 1 — Let’s see what would really happen.”

Part 2 of “That ’90s Show” quickly differentiated itself from its flagship series by discussing social issues relevant for the decade, whether it’s through Gwen dealing with racism as the friends shoplift at the local mall, or Ozzie wishing he had a stronger queer community in the Wisconsin suburbs.

“The cast of ‘That ’70s Show’ was not as diverse as our cast, and we have a very diverse writers room — people are bringing their perspectives into work,” Mettler said, adding that these moments felt specific to the show’s characters and reflected the environment of the ’90s.

Mettler still understands the limitations of discussing these issues within the context of a 20-minute sitcom episode, “but steering clear of them feels false to me as somebody that was around in the ’90s.”

While “That ’70s Show” stars Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith and Laura Prepon returned for Part 2, “That ’90s Show” also granted a larger role to Don Stark, who reprised his role as Donna’s father, Bob Pinciotti, in Season 1. With the audience going “berserk” with Stark’s cameo, Mettler immediately started to wonder “How do we get more Don Stark?”

“The wheels start to turn for me … how do we get this character to be here in a believable way? What would happen if Leia had two grandpas fighting over her, two grandpa’s wanting to protect her or give her driving lessons?” Mettler recalled. “Those stories started to just pop very easily.”

Part 2 did not see the return of “That ’70s Show” stars Wilmer Valderrama, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace, which Mettler said came down to “scheduling and other challenges.”

“While the contributions of the original cast in Season 1 were incredible, and I’ll be forever grateful to Mila and Ashton and to Wilmer and Topher, we were here to start telling the story of ‘That ’90s Show” and tell the story of Leia Forman,” Mettler said.

Carmen Electra and Kurtwood Smith in “That ’90s Show.” (Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

The comedy series also welcomed several ’90s icons to set, including Carmen Electra, whose appears in a dream sequence, Lisa Loeb, who appears as Leia re-creates her iconic “Stay” music video, as well as “Jay and Silent Bob” stars Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes.

After Smith thanked the show for shouting him out in Season 1, Netflix worked to set up a Part 2 cameo with Smith and Mewes, with Smith playing the son of Tommy Chong’s Leo. The pair will also be seen in Part 3, especially after they drive into Kitty and Red’s house during Leia’s underground house party.

Mettler teased Part 3, which premieres October 24 on Netflix, would pick up amidst that stress, as well as center on Nate and Nikki after they parted ways.

“For Nate, after everything they go through, to look at Nikki and fall back in love with her — That’s what we’re really picking up on the emotion of,” he said. “And then we end up following that line throughout Part 3 — who decides to start dating someone else? Who decides to admit their feelings?”

“That ’90s Show” Parts 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix. Part 3 premieres on Oct. 24.

The post ‘That ’90s Show’ Boss Says Part 2 Ramps Up Edgier Stories: ‘They Were Really Growing Up’ appeared first on TheWrap.