Ashley Aufderheide seems like any other teenager when she pops up on Zoom. She’s just finished a bunch of exams and she’s tired. “I had to write five responses. I thought it was four, but then in the last 30 minutes, I found out it was five… so,” she says, smiling anyways. 

The 18-year-old actress, who has been working in the entertainment industry for almost as long as she’s been alive, still can’t believe what’s about to happen. “'You're on a Netflix show! That's crazy' — but I’ve processed that. The fact that my life could change hasn't really been processed yet,” she explains. 

She’s talking about her role in That ‘90s Show, Netflix's spinoff series to the cult classic sitcom That ‘70s Show that just hit streaming on January 19. In the series, she plays Gwen Runck, the confident, rebellious girl next door who lives in Donna Pincitti's old house and befriends Leia Forman (Callie Haverda), the daughter of Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon), as she visits her grandparents in Point Place, Wisconsin for the summer. Set in 1995, the 10-episode series follows a whole new set of friends as they hang out in Kitty and Red Forman's (Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith) basement — just like they did in the ‘70s — and features the return of some beloved characters from the original series and their kids. 

Read more: Reneé Rapp on wanting to be “bisexual Justin Bieber” and what she wants for her Sex Lives of College Girls character Leighton

Fans have been eager to say, "Hello, Wisconsin!" too. The show debuted within Netflix's Top 10, most-watched shows within days of its release and earned its fair share of critical acclaim — which in the world of constant spinoffs and remakes is hard to do.

With the show out now, AltPress sat down with the series' resident riot grrrl Ashley Aufderheide to talk about what drew her to Gwen, the music she listens to transport herself to the ‘90s, and what working with the legacy cast, especially Laura Prepon, taught her. 

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[Callie Haverda as Leia Forman and Ashley Aufderheide as Gwen Runck / Courtesy of Patrick Wymore/Netflix]

What drew you to the role of Gwen? 

Gwen’s first scene — when she's dancing in her bedroom to Alanis Morissette and she's just so unapologetically herself — that was my audition scene. Practicing that scene and doing the audition in front of everyone, I felt like I just fit into her. I was immediately drawn to Gwen’s energy and her confidence. She’s bold and she's a leader. And as a friend, she's very protective and straightforward. I call her my alter ego because I try to be all of those things. 

Music is such a big part of the '90s and is a big part of Gwen’s character. Is there a song that you think channels who she is best? 

“Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill is at the top of my Gwen playlist. And I gotta say, I think Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” works really, really well. 

What was it like playing a teenager in the '90s, compared to being one today? Did you feel better without having to worry about social media or did you miss it? 

Our director Gail [Mancuso] said, “No phones,” so we were not allowed to have phones on set, and it was really nice. We got as immersed as possible in the vibes of the '90s. Like, Gwen’s room has a cool, rebellious look to it and that's very different from my room here at home. And portraying teens then, it was easier to be in the moment, whereas now it's sort of difficult to be in the moment when your phone is right next to you all the time. But the whole premise of the show is just hanging out with your friends, and I love to hang out with my friends; I feel like every teenager does. In the show, everyone has their own distinct character and is different, but then have this great chemistry altogether, and my friends and I are the same way.

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[Sam Morelos as Nikki, Callie Haverda as Leia Forman, Ashley Aufderheide as Gwen Runck / Courtesy of Patrick Wymore/Netflix]

I loved the way Gwen and Leia’s friendship grew over the course of the season. What was it like portraying that on screen? 

One of my audition scenes was actually the water tower scene with Leia and when I had gotten the role, but Callie [Haverda] was auditioning, we did a chemistry read. After, the showrunner literally said, “Do you guys know each other? Have you met?” because our chemistry was like that! At first, Gwen seems so rebellious and is rebellious, but that comes from somewhere and throughout the season you peel back those layers and you see this vulnerable side to her through scenes with Leia. Having that progression makes their friendship even closer, and it's made my and Callie’s real-life friendship closer because that's how we met.

You got to work with some very famous people in the legacy cast. What was that like? 

We're really, really lucky that we had the legacy cast because they took us in with open arms and made us feel like part of the family, which they did not have to do. This was my first time acting in front of a live audience and doing comedy, and they were so supportive. They said that it's important to stay authentic and have fun because, at the end of the day, it is a comedy. We're not there to be serious, we're there to have a good time and try to make people laugh. And Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith are just incredible people. They’re very funny in person and their dynamic is great. 

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[Courtesy of Patrick Wymore/Netflix]

Laura Prepon directed the last two episodes of the season. How was it working with her as a director? 

She was phenomenal. I want to be a director when I'm older and when I had Laura as a director, I saw myself in her. I was like, "That is the director I want to be." She's a total actor's director. She came in the morning and had her whole entire script covered in notes for the scene. She would talk me through everything and if any of us had a question, she was right there ready to answer. 

She did some really sweet things, too. When Laura was acting in That '70s Show, she moved her hands a lot, and, apparently, I do the same thing. So David Trainor, the director on That '70s Show, did this thing to her to tell her to stop moving her hands so much and she was like, "I'm going to do that with you." [Laughs while closing her hands.]

Who was the first person you told when you got the role?

I sort of knew that I had the role before I officially got offered the role. I was at a pizza shop, just hanging out with two of my friends, and was like, "Hey guys, so this is happening… kind of crazy." But when I got the actual offer, I was with my cross-country team and my mom just comes in and I'm like, "Oh, my goodness, what is happening? Why is my mom here during cross-country?" and then she tells me that I got the role. My whole team got so excited, we were freaking out, I started crying, and then I had to run two miles. 

That’s so cute. Did you end up winning the race?

I’m healed now, but I was anemic and iron deficient, so cross country was not always my forte. So did I win? That's a good question. My anemia and iron deficiency say no.