BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Ashton Kutcher will play "an Internet billionaire with a broken heart" when he arrives as the new star of "Two and a Half Men" next month.
CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler shared this tidbit about the much-anticipated cast change for TV's biggest sitcom during a session with television reporters on Wednesday. Kutcher, of course, will fill the void left by Charlie Sheen, who made a stormy exit from "Men" last season.
Kutcher's character will be named Walden Schmidt, confided the CBS boss, who added that Schmidt has no family connection to the characters played by continuing stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones. They portrayed the brother and nephew of Sheen's departed character.
Tassler would not confirm or deny reports that the new season of "Men" begins with the death of Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, and a funeral.
"The mystery is part of the marketing," she said.
"Men" begins its ninth season on Sept. 19 with the first of a two-part kickoff that establishes Kutcher's character.
Predictably, Tassler voiced excitement about the show's new star.
Kutcher, she said, "is an extraordinarily professional, talented, funny, gifted actor who comes with a tremendous amount of commitment and enthusiasm."
"The show will be as irreverent as it has ever been," she promised. "Our Program Practices people are already on high alert."
Even so, Kutcher and his "Men" co-stars were conspicuously absent from Wednesday's sessions of the Television Critics Association, which was visited by cast members from several of CBS' new fall shows as well as from "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," the veteran crime drama that is welcoming Ted Danson to the fold for its upcoming 12th season.
Asked why the "Men" gang wasn't on hand, Tassler replied that the show is in production. It resumed shooting Monday, and a break for a meeting across town with reporters would have been too disruptive, she explained.
"There is a tremendous amount of energy and focus and attention," Tassler said. "I would be lying if I didn't say when everybody walked on that set on Monday, you could cut the air with a knife."
Kutcher's first week on the job begins a new chapter for "Men" after a tumultuous conclusion to Sheen's eight-season run as a fast-living, womanizing cad. Sheen's portrayal drew inspiration from his own life of sex sprees, serial marriages and substance abuse, which spiraled into clashes with the show's studio as well as its creator, Chuck Lorre, and CBS. He was fired in March and the season was shuttered early.
Tassler was asked what she had learned from that experience.
"Oh, where do I begin?" she replied with mock weariness, but hastily insisted she preferred to look forward, not behind.
Then, when asked if, in the future, CBS might introduce new policies for casting actors who are known for erratic behavior, she cracked, "That would probably be every actor in the business."