Jon Cryer: I Thought Charlie Sheen Was Going to Die

 Art Streiber

This interview appears in the September 14 Emmy Icons issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

Jon Cryer has had one hell of a year. Two and a Half Men, for which he has won a supporting actor Emmy, was thrown into disarray when co-star Charlie Sheen was fired. After months of rumblings and reported feuds between Sheen and Men creator Chuck Lorre -- all "fabricated," says Cryer -- Ashton Kutcher joined the sitcom, which is set to return to CBS on Sept. 19, the same day Cryer will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cryer, 46, a married father of two, is coming off the star-studded stage rendition of Company and will voice Disney's upcoming Cars spinoff Planes. THR recently chatted with the actor who rose to fame as Duckie in 1986's Pretty in Pink.

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The tables have turned on Two and a Half Men, and now your character Alan Harper is the ladies man. How does it feel?

It's kind of fun. It's a very different dynamic that they've set up between Alan and Ashton's character. It completely works.

Am I right that one of your first feature roles was a romantic comedy (1984's No Small Affair) where you played a younger man falling for Demi Moore?

Interesting, isn't it? Ashton and I have only really touched on that because when I say his wife and I did a movie back when he was seven, it sounds vaguely like I'm trying to diminish him in some way. [Laughs.]

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What's been the biggest change on Men since you've been back in production?

Well, we don't have the smoke breaks that Charlie used to take.

If you were to attend Charlie's Comedy Central roast, what would your opening line be?

I don't like roasts as a form, and I certainly don't like roasts of people that I actually like, which is the case in this situation. So, sadly, I've got nothing you can print. I'll probably record it.

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How did you feel when Charlie was fired?

A combination of shock and sadness because this wasn't the way anybody wanted the show to end. And then fear -- because at that point, let's face it, I didn't know if Charlie was going to be living another week.

Have you spoken to him since then?

I have not.

Have you reached out to him?
 
I have told... yes, I have. But we have not spoken.

What was your role through that period?
 
I was largely out of it because I’m not a producer on the show. Once the decision had been made and it was public, the studio reached out to me often to let me know that they were going to try to make it work somehow but they didn’t know what was going to happen. They tried to keep me apprise of the whole process. So I wasn’t out of the loop, but then again I wasn’t making the big decisions either.

When you heard Ashton was taking this role, what was your first reaction?

My gut reaction was, I have no idea what that show is going to be like. [Laughs.] But the weird thing for me was this mythology that was created about the show and a feud between Chuck [Lorre] and Charlie. The tabloids took this whole thing and ran with it, and I just never saw it. Actors always have things that they're not thrilled about on a show and have a hobby of bellyaching about those things. Charlie had his share of them, but nothing along the lines of an explosion. It was very strange to see Chuck's actions be interpreted as a feud with Charlie when, if you'll remember during that whole thing, when stuff was being said about him, he said nothing.

There were the title cards …

The title cards happened long before that, and I can tell you that Charlie thought they were funny. He told me repeatedly that he thought they were funny. So that is a completely fabricated part of this.

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Is it possible that the media attention spurred or even created any kind of feud between them?

No. That has been the narrative that has been created. When somebody has a substance-abuse problem and somebody says, "No, you should really stop that," often the reaction is not good. I believe that's what we saw.

What has been the high point of your career?

I'm feeling great about where I am right now. I've had a great run on a show that I really like, and we're getting another shot at it. I'm also getting these crazy opportunities, like being in a production of Company with Stephen Colbert and the New York Philharmonic. I can't imagine Jon Cryer performing with the New York Philharmonic isn't one of the signs of apocalypse.

Are there genres that you have not yet tackled  but would like to?

I feel like I could dominate the origami field. I think I have enormous potential in that area. [Laughs.] I've always done whatever I felt like, even if it was really inadvisable.

What fit into the inadvisable category?

I'd often say I'm just going to try whatever suits my fancy this week, so I ended up doing a lot of weird little movies that are not even available on DVD. Not even those crappy ones that are streaming on Netflix. They're nowhere.

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You’ve been in the industry for some time. What’s the most frustrating part of the TV business today?
 

What’s frustrating is that the whole business model is changing. It’s a more tumultuous change than has ever been dealt with in the entertainment industry in my lifetime. This is the change over to sound for us in terms of dealing with the Internet, cable and satellite. Is recorded media going to be worth something to somebody and in what way is that going to continue? There have never been rules in show business, but now it feels like what rules we thought there were are completely gone.
 
How does that impact the decisions that you’re making as an actor?  

"The hope would be that it would free you to do whatever you want. You would be able to say, ‘Today, I’ll make my little YouTube movie.’ But then you remember you have to make a living. And if in fact recorded performance looses its value, then what do actors have to give? So that scares a lot of people. But, at the same time, we’re realizing that everyone’s figuring out a way to do it and people still want to watch entertaining, well-written shows. Reality TV is great for what it is, but the sitcom hasn’t gone away. I remember there were a few years there where everybody said Two and a Half Men was going to be the last multi-camera sitcom. We’ve outlasted the death of our medium, and that’s a lovely feeling.

Which character do you most closely associate with: Duckie? Alan?

Duckie. That was me in high school. And what has been nice is that character has really stuck around for people.

What would Duckie be doing today?

I think that anything that I could name would diminish it. It's like when you go to the reunion and you see that guy you always thought was a quirky, fun, interesting person and he grew up not to be that. I don't want to have that happen for people with Duckie.

Walk of Fame
11:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 19
6922 Hollywood Blvd.
Guest Speakers: Carl Reiner, Chuck Lorre

 

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