Another 'Two and a Half Men' Star Declares War
It's deja vu all over again at Two and a Half Men. Nearly two years after Charlie Sheen was fired from the Warner Bros.-produced CBS sitcom for, among other things, insubordinance and rants aimed at co-creator Chuck Lorre, teen star Angus T. Jones now finds himself in similarly hot water. Will the unfolding situation end with another actor being asked to leave the hit sitcom prematurely?
A Men source says the cast and crew were shocked Nov. 26 when a lengthy video posted on YouTube by the Fremont, Calif.-based Forerunner Christian Church revealed a wide-ranging interview with Jones, 19, in which he called the show "filth," begged viewers to stop watching it and declared that he wants to quit. "You cannot be a true, God-fearing person and be on a television show like that," said Jones, who has starred on all 10 seasons of the ribald sitcom and makes more than $300,000 an episode. "I know I can't. I'm not OK with what I'm learning, what the Bible says and being on that television show. You go all or nothing."
Jones' co-star in the video, filmed in his trailer on the Warners lot, is Christopher Hudson, an energetic figure featured in several slick videos dubbed the Forerunner Chronicles on a website for the church, an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Jones says on camera that he became involved in Forerunner after a recent "awakening" following a troubled period that included drug use, and he says that members of his family likened his involvement in the church to him joining a "cult." In Jones' video, labeled a "testimonial," he says to Hudson, whose online messages have linked the music industry and rapper Jay-Z to Satan, "Your videos have no doubt been a blessing to me."
Jones' comments present yet another personnel issue for Men producers, Warner Bros. and CBS. His jabs at the show likely would violate an anti-disparagement clause if one appears in his contract -- many TV talent deals contain language prohibiting actors from declaring war on their shows in the press -- but it's unlikely that Warner Bros., his employer, would fire the actor for the transgression. That's an even less likely scenario because Jones' comments were religious in nature, and employers tend to tread carefully when moves could be interpreted as having been undertaken in response to an employee expressing his or her religious beliefs.
Despite dips from last year's boosted numbers when Ashton Kutcher replaced Sheen, Men is averaging a formidable 3.7 rating this season among adults 18-to-49 (4.7 with live-plus-7), ranking it behind only Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory among comedies. (The show fetches $250,000 for a 30-second spot.) And overseas, Men remains a power, though ratings have begun to slip. In Australia, for instance, the once-dominant comedy now draws 460,000 to 700,000 viewers, compared with 700,000 to 1.2 million viewers for Big Bang. On Canada's CTV, Men hovers below 3 million viewers, compared with 4.3 million for Big Bang.
Despite the cash flow, sources close to the show say the thinking on set even before the new controversy was that Jones would exit Men in May (if the show itself doesn't end). Last year, as the team was discussing re-upping for either one or two seasons, sources say Jones expressed a desire to leave after season 10 to attend college. His character joined the Army at the end of last season, and he does not appear in every episode this season. "My character does Skype calls. He only does one-scene Skype calls," Jones told E! Online in October. "It's easy, but it's boring."
As of press time, a Warner Bros. source says no discussions have taken place between Jones and the studio about his future. (Warner Bros., CBS and reps for Jones and the church all declined comment.) It seems unlikely that the studio would force him to trudge through the season if he truly wants off the show. And even if there is an on-set confrontation a la Sheen's final days on Men, it wouldn't happen until early 2013. Jones coincidentally is not scheduled to appear in the two episodes to be filmed before the holiday hiatus.
Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.