If you’re a long-time fan of Ashton Kutcher, you probably remember the role that kicked off his career. From 1998 until 2006, the Iowa-born actor played the dim-witted Michael Kelso on the hit Fox sitcom, That ‘70s Show. The show also starred Mila Kunis, who eventually became Kutcher’s real-life wife, and Danny Masterson, who became one of Kutcher’s best buds. But has a series of sexual misconduct allegations against Masterson affected the duo’s closeness? Here’s our investigation into their relationship.
Kutcher And Masterson Have Been BFFs Since That ’70s Show
Kutcher and Masterson hit it off immediately when they met after being cast on That ‘70s Show. While both actors were young (ages 20 and 22 at the time), Masterson had been acting since he was a kid and had some experience under his belt. Kutcher, on the other hand, was brand new to Hollywood and quickly began to rely on his new friend for guidance.
“That ’70s Show was my first job, and this guy [Masterson] was an absolute mentor to me, not just as a performer, but as a person,” Kutcher explained in a 2016 interview with People. “And I think, without him, I don’t know where I would be as a person, because he kept me on the ground, and he would always whenever I got a little too high on my horse, he would knock me back down. He kept me out of trouble. He taught me how to have fun without getting myself too far out, and he’s one of my best friends in the world.”
Kutcher and Masterson remained tight after That ‘70s Show went off the air. They were frequently spotted together out on the town and often made cameos on each other’s social media feeds. In 2016, the pals got to the chance to work together again when they were cast as brothers on the Netflix comedy, The Ranch. Kutcher said it felt natural that they were playing siblings on the show.
“The opportunity to, like, work together and you know, in a lot of families brothers are best friends, and we really just get to play a lot of our personal dynamic in this show, which is so much fun,” he told People. “Like, when we sit down and do scenes together, it just feels like we are shooting the shit, which is which kind of makes the job, you know, easy and fun.”
Allegations Against Masterson
While The Ranch was a hit and ended up running for four seasons, Masterson was fired by Netflix during the second season and his character was written off the show. His termination was the result of multiple sexual assault allegations that surfaced against the actor in March of 2017 by four women who claimed they were assaulted by Masterson in the early 2000s. Later that year, a former girlfriend of Masterson’s added fuel to the fire when she came forward to claim that she had been repeatedly raped while she was dating the That ‘70s Show star.
Masterson denied the claims and expressed his frustration about being axed from The Ranch. “I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of The Ranch,” he said in a statement from December 2017. “From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me.”
Despite his denials, the Men at Work star was charged with three counts of rape by the Los Angeles District Attorney in 2020. “There have been repeated attempts to politicize this case,” Masterson’s lawyer said in a statement following the announcement of the charges. “He is absolutely not guilty and we’re going to prove it.”
In 2021, Masterson pleaded not guilty to the charges and currently remains free on $3.3 million bail. His criminal trial is scheduled to begin in August of 2022.
Have These Allegations Caused Kutcher To Pull Away?
Kutcher has long been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and is the co-founder of Thorn, a non-profit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation. He’s also spoken openly about supporting women’s rights and gender equality in the workplace. “A lot of my employees have come forward with abuses that they’ve faced and I think it’s amazing that people are having the courage to come up to report these types of things,” Kutcher said in during a 2017 Facebook Live event. “Maybe something can be done about it, because the solution is far too far off.”
But the No Strings Attached star has remained tight-lipped about the charges against Masterson, so it’s hard to know how or even if the allegations have affected their relationship. Here’s what we know about the current state of the Masterson-Kutcher friendship.
Signs That Kutcher Is Distancing Himself From Masterson
While the best buds used to appear on each other’s social media feeds with frequency, Kutcher has not posted any content with or about Masterson on his own socials since the allegations broke in 2017. Furthermore, the Dude Where’s My Car? star is an executive producer on The Ranch, which means he must have had some say in the decision to fire Masterson from the Netflix show.
Then there’s the fact that Kutcher has signed on to appear in the upcoming That ‘70s Show reboot, That ‘90s Show. He’ll appear alongside the majority of the original cast, including Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kinus, Wilmer Valderrama, Kurtwood Smith, and Debra Jo Rupp. Masterson is the only former cast member who was not invited back to reprise his role. If Kutcher was still tight with his former co-star, wouldn’t he have passed on the appearance in a show of solidarity?
Signs They’re Still As Close As Ever
While Kutcher has made no public statment of support for Masterson, he also has not spoken out against his former The Ranch and That ‘70s Show co-star. For many, this is a clear sign that the Two and a Half Men star has chosen to stand by his friend behind the scenes. One of Masterson’s accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, has criticized Kutcher for this decision, noting the hypocrisy of his silence.
“Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have positioned themselves as champions for women, children, fighting against sexual abuses and sex trafficking,” Bixler said in a 2019 statement. “Public supporters of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. Ashton and Mila were at the forefront marching in the Women’s March on March 13, 2018, in Los Angeles. As much as I applaud them for standing up for women, I am left confused and heartbroken as to why they refuse to stand up for all the women they know who have been violently raped by their friend Danny Masterson.”
Does this mean Kutcher is actually on Masterson’s side? It certainly could be the case, especially since Bixler claims Kutcher knew Masterson’s victims personally. Then there’s another piece of alarming evidence—photos of the pals partying together as recently as 2019. In January of that year, journalist Tony Ortega posted leaked photos of the friends having a ball at the Scientology-sponsored wedding of their mutual friend (and co-star on The Ranch), Justin Mooney. Mila Kunis also appeared in the pics, and neither Kunis nor Kutcher appear to be holding any ill will toward the accused rapist.
It will be interesting to see what happens once the criminal trial starts later this summer!