The cast and creators of Two and Half Men — Chuck Lorre, co-creator and exec producer; Lee Aronsohn, exec producer and stars Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones — took the stage during CBS’ portion of the winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Wednesday morning.
Television critics couldn’t help but ask the expected Charlie Sheen-related questions and whether Kutcher would return next season, but surprisingly Kutcher’s newly shaved beard and haircut was an equally hot a topic for the audience.
Here are some highlights from the panel:
On the decision to keep the show going after Sheen
Lorre: Ashton Kutcher changed the impossibility. We started talking about possible ways to go. CBS was clearly interested in keeping this thing going. It seemed like an impossible and slightly ridiculous thing to do. We just went, “Why not try?” No one will be physically harmed.[What happened with Sheen] seemed like a heartbreaking way to end.
Aronsohn: We went through all the possibilities. We just knew that we needed to create another core relationship.
On the experience of re-launching the series
Lorre: It’s been an extraordinary experience rebirthing the show. We have an audience who stayed with us. Beyond the actual physical numbers, for Lee [exec producer] and I, this has been an extraordinary experience…We’re grateful this guy [Kutcher] came on and kept the light going.
On comments that the show is different without Sheen
Aronsohn: I’ve read comments online saying it’s not the same without Charlie. It’s not supposed to be. We did eight years of one certain type of show. And it’s been a lot of fun to essentially create a different show with a lot of the same elements. A lot of folks find it a breath of fresh air. You can only go so long with the same tone, same conflicts.
On Kutcher’s character
Lorre: We were looking backwards, Ashton forced us to look forward to a forward-looking character. The first time I met Ashton, he launched into a conversation about how he was fascinated with the computer code of Skype. That’s a whole new guy. A guy that’s not on TV; not on a comedy.
On the critical response Kutcher received on the show via social media
Kutcher: I think that initially and, even now, you can see that people are supportive of the show. In general, my feedback has been really positive…Part of listening to the audience in a slightly more personal way has helped me guide the character into what the audience wants.
If you look at rough numbers of the demos, they have skewed a little younger. So, you can see the reflection of social media on the surfaces.
On whether Kutcher will return next season
The deal we structured was a test deal…The show is outperforming the numbers from before I was here. I think people are responding to it. For me, having a show that people like and want more of - that will dictate my decision…I’m interested in coming back.
On the reported feud between Sheen and Lorre
Aronsohn: I never saw a feud between Charlie and Chuck on set. The differences came up after Sheen left the show. Chuck was always extremely respectful of Charlie and Charlie was always extremely respectful of Chuck.
On the dynamic between Cryer and Kutcher’s character versus he and Sheen’s
Cryer: What’s been lovely is the relationship is different. They are friends. They both need each other for different reasons. They are not brothers who are stuck together. They are hurt and wounded people. It allows a completely different dynamic to come through.
On Kutcher having a shaved beard and haircut on stage
Kutcher: It’s related to the show completely. See it on this Monday night’s episode (Jan. 16).
On Kutcher starting on the show with longer hair and a beard
Kutcher: Coming in, when I’m not working on something specifically, I kind of let it [my hair] be a growing field. I think when we first met [he and Lorre], I was starting to get a little shaggy.
Lorre: I thought it was great to have a lead character on TV that didn’t look like anyone else on TV.
On how many more years the show will go on
Lorre: That’s a question you should ask Nina Tassler. I don’t know. Have no idea. We’re having a good time writing the show.
Lee: It can go as far as life goes.
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