Topher Grace relocates to sitcoms with Bay Area-set ‘Home Economics’

Topher Grace (left), Jimmy Tatro and Caitlin McGee play siblings in the ABC sitcom “Home Economics.” Photo: Temma Hankin/ABC

“Home Economics,” ABC’s comedy series exploring the wealth disparities between three adult Bay Area siblings, will highlight the 0.001% when “Shark Tank” star and billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, will play the role of himself in a new episode airing on Wednesday, April 6.

Cuban’s tangential relationship with San Francisco — as a technology investor and owner of a team that plays the Warriors — aligns with the sitcom, which is filmed in Los Angeles. But the desire is there to shoot locally, “Home Economics” star Topher Grace told The Chronicle in a phone interview.

A mid-season 2021 replacement that will wrap up its second (full) season in May, “Home Economics” marks a return to sitcoms for Grace, who starred as beloved teen Eric Forman in “That ’70s Show’.

Topher Grace (second from right) played a teenager on “That ’70s Show.” Photo: Frank Carroll/Fox

His “Home Economics” character, struggling family man and novelist Tom, also solidly renders Grace the ironic, decent persona he challenged in movies like “Traffic,” “Spider-Man 3” and “BlacKkKlansman.” , the 2018 Spike. Lee film in which Grace portrays white supremacist David Duke.

Tom is the emotionally more stable older brother of Connor (Jimmy Tatro, of “American Vandal”), a multi-millionaire investor frat-bro, and Sarah (Caitlin McGee), a socially conscious and financially challenged child therapist. All of the siblings are parents, and each week the extended family gathers for brunch, alternating between divorced dad Connor’s suburban mansion, the modest San Francisco home of Tom and his wife (Karla Souza, “How to Get Away With Murder”) and the cramped Oakland loft Sarah shares with his wife (Sasheer Zamata, “Saturday Night Live”).

Speaking to The Chronicle while on holiday with his wife, actress Ashley Hinshaw, and their two children, Grace is as affable as you might expect – although a question of whether he will appear in Netflix’s upcoming “’70s Show” sequel “That ’90s Show” gets run over by a publicist listening in on the call. Conversation edited for clarity and length.

Mark Cuban (left) and Topher Grace in “Home Economics.” Photo: Temma Hankin/ABC

Q: In this week’s episode, Mark Cuban plays himself as a participant in Connor’s high stakes poker game. How is his game?

A: It was such a great sport. He was super nice to everyone and had all of his lines memorized. … Then he started improvising – we improvise a bit, and he saw what we were doing. His jokes were so good that I realized they were going to (get there) in the episode. Jimmy and I were like, “Slow down. You already have $7 billion. Leave us something.

Q: The Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Did the show take place here for this reason?

A: It was for two reasons. … It’s really great when a show is in an area where people want to go every week. We love the beauty of San Francisco. … More importantly, when (show creators) Michael Colton and John Aboud were thinking about where this was going to be – the wealth gap is so intense all over America, but especially there. It was a great way to make people physically close to each other economically distant from each other.

Q: I can’t figure out where Connor lives. He has a view of San Francisco from what looks like Marin County, but the perspective is wrong.

A: It’s not a real place – that view doesn’t exist. We went back and forth on what should be realistic. (Sarah’s) apartment is overdone and her house is overdone. I’m kinda where you’re used to a normal family life on TV, though even where I live it’s a lot more expensive than where my character could afford.

Karla Souza and Topher Grace in “Home Economics”. Photo: Temma Hankin/ABC

Q: Were any of the shows filmed in the Bay Area?

A: We didn’t shoot anything there, which is a real disappointment. The first season, which was only seven episodes, was like this because of COVID – we were lucky enough to be able to do that. (But) it forced us to only shoot three sets. … We had three sets and archival footage of the exterior. Luckily, it didn’t just happen in one set, otherwise it really would have been “The Honeymooners” (laughs).

The mandate for this year was to try new things… (but) COVID has its own journey, or we had our own journey with it. Our original intention was to go up there and shoot. We hope to do so if we get a season three. We want to get scenes on carts.

Q: Why did you want to go back to sitcoms?

A: It also had to do with the pandemic. Like everyone else, I’ve been stuck at home for a long time, and my wife and I have two young children, so it’s a different quarantine than if you don’t.

When we got to where we thought we were going back to work – I had done a lot of dark stuff…but what I wanted look was something like that. And it’s great to be in things that are more like what you want to watch.

“Domestical economy” (TV-PG) airs at 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC. Available to stream on Hulu.


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