It was big news when Ashton Kutcher joined the cast of Two and a Half Men. He was stepping in to the void left by Charlie Sheen’s very public departure, and returning to television where he got his start in That ‘70s Show. That news has recently been overshadowed by news of his divorce from Demi Moore.
Kutcher joined the cast and creators of Two and a Half Men to meet with the Television Critics Association now that he’s firmly established on the show. Still careful not to get too personal, Kutcher spoke openly about his business and online persona, as well as his character Walden Schmidt.
Q: What are your hopes for 2012?
AK: Right now I’m just focused on working on the show and doing good work, focusing on my anti human trafficking organization and trying to solve some real issues around that, and just want to keep that moving forward.
Q: Are you hopeful a consciousness shift is coming?
AK: I think a consciousness shift is ever evolving and always happening.
Q: Obviously this has been a big year for you. How would you describe it and what have you learned most from it?
AK: You know, I've had a blast. Since I stop doing the ‘70s Show, I always wanted to go back and do television. And I remember when I was working on that show, I remember Robin Williams visiting the set at one point in time. He was visiting with Kurtwood Smith who played the father of the show, and said to Kurtwood at that time, like, "Man, I just wish I could go back and do a sitcom again." And I never forgot hearing that. And when I had this opportunity, I was like this is unbelievable. I think the best thing for me, other than the amazing job and great company of these people and actually being able to act a lot is really fun. You know, when you do a feature, it's a couple months and generally most of the time you spend waiting for lighting setups. And we rehearse every day and we get to be on a stage every day and perform and work on our craft and actually exercise those muscles and that craft. For me, I really love doing that and I really love performing and trying to find nuance in the character, trying to find different ways to express something and kind of just optimizing the scene. And so being able to do and work on that craft every day is really fulfilling.
Q: Speaking of That ‘70s Show, what do you think of Laura Prepon getting her own new show?
AK: I saw Laura this weekend. I’m so happy for her, I’m really, really stoked. She came over and watched football with me and my buddies. Their stage is actually right next door to our stage so I’m really happy for her. I hope the show’s a success.
Q: So you’ll see her more often?
AK: I see her every week. They’re on a break now but I talk to her, I’ve kept in touch with her ever since we did the show.
Q: With all the feedback you get on social media, do you have to trust your own instincts eventually?
AK: Yeah, I think you do. I think it’s hard. If you believe the good stuff that people say then you have to believe the bad stuff and then you allow yourself to be on a roller coaster of what other people think. So I think you try to find the good in the bad and the bad in the good and balance yourself and stay on an even keel.
Q: How do you find the balance? You’re so public online, where do you draw the line?
AK: It’s tough really. I think you just have to use your own discretion, right? How personal do you want to allow yourself to be and I think it’s different for everyone. Depending on what you do and how you do what you do, I wouldn’t recommend for everyone to allow themselves to be public online. I think it also in some way, shape or form allows you to answer questions that otherwise would be lingering and dictate your own path instead of having your path dictated by the media.
Q: You seem like such a serious thoughtful guy in person, but the characters you play are sort of goofy dufuses. Do you long to play someone who’s closer to how you are in real life?
AK: I’m serious when I’m talking to the press because I’m always on guard because I never know what you’re going to ask and I never know how you’re going to construe my answer, so I try to maintain a pretty even pace when I’m speaking with the media. So that might not necessarily reflect who I am usually.
Q: Is this the true Ashton we’re seeing right now?
AK: This is a great performance, and it’s almost over. The curtain’s about to come.
Q: Some people think Walden Schmidt is a lot like Kelso. Do you think that’s fair?
AK: I think that they're very different characters. I think that there's probably, like, a childlike quality that we intentionally brought to the character in an effort to sort of soften the guy a little bit and plus he was going through this sort of broken-hearted phase. I think Walden is probably far less of a ladies’ man per se than Kelso was. I think he's probably a little bit quicker, smarter, brighter and think as the character evolves, I think it will probably get further and further away from that same sensibility. That being said, I'm sure I have my own comedic tone and delivery that I've learned over the years, and I'm sure that there's some similarities in the way that I deliver comedy and it's probably that overtone that people are connecting to the most.
Q: Are you signed up to stay with Two and a Half Men next season?
AK: The deal that we structured for the show was kind of a test. Can we get the show up? Can we get it going? The show is outperforming the numbers from before I was here, and so I think that people are responding to it. And, you know, for me, having a show that people like and people want more of, that will dictate my decision. I have a couple features I think I'm going to do in the summer during the hiatus, and right now I'm looking at it as a hiatus because I'm having a lot of fun doing the show and working with these guys and would be interested in coming back if we can work that out.
Q: What tech gadget are you craving?
AK: Yeah, I have a couple things but I’m building them so I don’t want to talk about them until they’re built.
Q: You have a handle on your career, social media and you’re even developing technology. How did you get your business sense?
AK: I was a biochemical engineering major in college, and I've always sort of stayed up with technology. About six years ago I did a digital content deal with AOL, kind of right as buffering was getting to the point where you didn't have to wait for 20 minutes to watch a video online. And I just continued to pursue that and forged relationships, so I have my production company for film, television, and digital media. Then we have an extension of that that's a social media marketing company. Then I have an investment fund that I run for technology investments. So I don't know where the aptitude for that stuff came from. I think I just have an appetite for it and just follow my passions and interests.
Q: When you shaved the beard and cut your hair, did you get a lot of complaints on Twitter?
AK: I'm sure there will be people now that I've cut my hair and shaved my beard they want me to have long hair and a beard. There were people that when I had a beard and long hair wanted me to be shaved and have a haircut. How it evolved is these guys wrote a screenplay that dictated that I cut my hair and shave my beard at some point.
Q: Why was it long and shaggy when you first came into the show?
AK: Well, when I'm not working on something specifically, I tend to just kind of let it be a growing field because you never know what you're going to play and I'd prefer not to wear a wig or any prosthetics or any fake whatever. So I think when we first met, I was starting to get a little shaggy and we just kind of kept it.