"That 2010s Show": Topher Grace Makes His Off-Broadway Debut in Lonely, I'm Not

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30 Apr 2012

Topher Grace
Topher Grace

A funny thing happened to Topher Grace on the way to Second Stage, where he is starring in a — what's the TV word? — "dramedy" by Paul Weitz called Lonely, I'm Not.


Stardom happened. There he was back in 1996, his senior year of high school, at a boarding school in New Hampshire. "Because I sprained my ankle doing tennis that year, I got to try out for the lead in the school play, and I got it," he says. The lead was Pseudolus, Zero Mostel's part in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and the rest is history — in rapid-fire double-time.

"The parents of the girl who did the sets were big Hollywood producers, so when I went to USC the next year, they called me about a Fox sitcom they were producing. 'That '70s Show' was my first audition. I took it as a sign never to do stage again."

Never...'til now. What prompted his NYC debut — his "theatre comeback" — is one of the 13 films he made during and after his six seasons of "That '70s Show." It was called "In Good Company," and he was indeed (with Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johansson), playing a boss in love with his employee's daughter — a coolly rearranged cliché written and directed by Weitz.

So, when Weitz came calling for his Lonely, I'm Not, Grace answered, albeit reluctantly. "I love going to theatre, but I was nervous about doing it. I didn't want to, but if you've had a great creative partner like Paul, you realize that's why you do it."

His first beard hides one of the New Faces of the 2011–12 theatre season. "This is my just-had-a-mental-breakdown beard," he beams proudly. "Does it read — that I had a mental breakdown? I talked to Paul about it. He said, 'Go ahead. We can shave it.' I think it's good. This guy is hanging on by a thread at the beginning of the play."

He plays Porter Willis, a once-married, former million-dollar corporate "ninja" on the mend from a meltdown. Giving life another shot, he gets a hand up from a blind, ambitious businesswoman (Olivia Thirlby) with obstacles of her own. Trip Cullman helmed this comic journey, and Mark Blum and Lisa Emery are the pillars of support.


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