Fans will recall that Charlie Sheen exited Two and a Half Men in Season 8, and his character Charlie Harper was subsequently written off the hit sitcom. Needing a new co-lead for Jon Cryer’s Alan Harper, Two and a Half Men ended up introducing a new character to fill the void, with That '70s Show vet Ashton Kutcher eventually joining the show as Alan’s good friend Walden Schmidt.
Interestingly, Hugh Grant was initially in talks to take over Charlie Sheen’s spot, but things ended up not working out there, so Ashton Kutcher was brought in instead. Fresh off the final episodes going live for his hit Netflix series The Ranch, Kutcher reflected on his Two and a Half Men stint and revealed the Walden character that made it to the screen was not exactly the role that he signed up for.
Ashton Kutcher explained on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast that his Two and a Half Men role took a considerable shift from first pitch to live-action, resulting in a noticeable character difference from what Kutcher initially agreed on with the series' co-creator Chuck Lorre. Apparently, Walden Schmidt was a totally different guy before undergoing a reboot of sorts after Kutcher took the role. Speaking about the situation, Kutcher said:
I went and met with Chuck Lorre, and he seemed like a really smart guy, and he had an idea for this character that I thought was really interesting, which wasn't the character that I ended up [playing]. I got the script and was like, 'Well, that's not what we talked about.' But he had an idea for this character I thought was interesting, and he was like 'Are you ready?' and I was like 'What do you mean?' He's like well 'This is going to be a big story and a big thing.' I was like, 'What's going to happen?' I mean worst-case scenario, the guy is gonna shit-talk me and then what? So, I was like okay, and I just decided to do it and had a really good time.
Ashton Kutcher sadly did not explain how the character changed from what he and Two and a Half Men’s creator initially talked about. Whatever those alterations were, they were considerable enough for Kutcher to say something to Chuck Lorre himself. While it wasn't the incarnation they initially agreed upon, Kutcher still ended up deciding to do the show, joining the cast in Season 9 and taking it through three seasons beyond that.
In total, Ashton Kutcher did four seasons of the sitcom, with Two and a Half Men ending on Season 12, going off the air (sans Charlie Sheen) in February 2014. Am I the only one who feels like that was a lifetime ago and also just yesterday? Regardless, the situation with Kutcher was definitely not the biggest creative fight of Chuck Lorre’s career, or even his time on Two and a Half Men.
That honor belongs to Chuck Lorre’s ultimately successful push to cast Jon Cryer as Alan. And then, of course, there was all the mess with Charlie Sheen that provoked his firing. It doesn't sound like the situation with Ashton Kutcher led to anything more than a slightly confusing conversation.
The second incarnation of Kutcher's Two and a Half Men character was still interesting enough for him to sign on, and it was interesting enough to keep audiences invested. Check out a clip below recalling Walden's time on the show:
Ashton Kutcher shared that many of the producers from Two and a Half Men ended up working with him on The Ranch, and he went on to speak positively about his experience doing the show, including citing everyone’s support of him through his divorce with Demi Moore. Plus, both that show and The Ranch fed into Kutcher's love of performing in front of live audiences for sitcoms. So, all is well that ends well, it would seem.