Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson team up again in new sitcom

Ashton Kutcher (far left) and Danny Masterson in Netflix comedy series The Ranch.
Ashton Kutcher (far left) and Danny Masterson in Netflix comedy series The Ranch.PHOTO: NETFLIX

That '70s Show stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson play siblings on a new show, The Ranch

It has been 10 years since Ashton Kutcher played the vapid pretty-boy Kelso on the sitcom That '70s Show (1998-2006) and did it so well that many assumed he was just as dim.

He went on to prove he was more than a handsome face, however - first by creating the hit MTV hidden-camera series Punk'd (2003- 2012), and then becoming a major venture capitalist and investor in start-ups such as Skype and Airbnb.

All this while slowly cementing his status as an A-list Hollywood star with comedies such as Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) and No Strings Attached (2011), as well as successfully replacing Charlie Sheen on the popular sitcom Two And A Half Men from 2011 to 2015.

Now the 38-year-old is teaming up with his That '70s Show co-star Danny Masterson to produce and star in his own television comedy, The Ranch.

Debuting on the streaming service Netflix on Friday, the show is about a rural, conservative, God-fearing family just like the one he grew up in himself, Kutcher reveals.

The actor plays Colt Bennett, a semi-professional American football player who returns home to help run the struggling family cattle farm in Colorado. Masterson is his brother Rooster; Sam Elliott (Tombstone, 1993) and Debra Winger (An Officer And A Gentleman, 1982) are their parents .

Man,he can memorise a lot of lines.

DANNY MASTERSON on his co-star, Ashton Kutcher

Speaking to The Straits Times and other press in Los Angeles, Kutcher says appearing on That '70s Show created an unbreakable bond between him, Masterson and the rest of cast - which includes Kutcher's wife Mila Kunis, the 32-year-old Black Swan (2010) actress he married last year and now has a one-year-old daughter with.

Danny is really good at taking the p**s out of me.

KUTCHER on Masterson

"The amazing thing is when you set out to do various projects as an actor, you always end up creating this little family with the people that you work with, and most of the time you are on a movie set for three months and you become best friends with whoever is there and say, 'We are going to stay in touch, and we'll talk all the time," he says.

But "then you are on different sides of the world doing whatever you are doing", and castmates inevitably drift apart.

His friendship with Masterson endured, however. While Kutcher's reunion with Kunis following his eight-year marriage and 2013 divorce from actress Demi Moore, 53, was all the tabloids cared about for a few years, the actor reveals that his rock-solid relationship with Masterson is the other big legacy of the show.

"That '70s Show was my first job and this guy was an absolute mentor to me, not just as a performer, but also as a person. And I think, without him, I don't know where I would be as a person, because he kept me on the ground, and whenever I got a little too high on my horse, he would knock me back down. He kept me out of trouble. He's one of my best friends in the world," says Kutcher.

Playing brothers on the show was clearly not much of a stretch for them.

"When we sit down and do scenes together, it just feels like we are shooting the s**t, which kind of makes the job easy and fun," Kutcher says.

Masterson, 40, agrees, adding: "It's also great because we both know what we are good at and not great at. There's no ego involved in giving each other advice on how to deliver a line or whatnot. So it's really easy."

Pressed on what each of them is good at, the pair rib each other.

"Man, he can memorise a lot of lines," says Masterson of Kutcher, who responds: "Danny is really good at taking the p**s out of me."

But Masterson graciously reveals that there is a good reason why it was Kutcher and not him who became the big star.

"I feel like the key also with Kutcher is that he is a leading man and he is a leading man that people enjoy watching. He's got the charisma. He's got the intelligence. And, you know, I would never be able to deliver the lines that he's delivering because I'm not that person.

"So it works really well because we are all revolving around him and what his storylines are and just adding to that."

The two friends are working together behind the scenes as executive producers on The Ranch, which is something of a departure from the average sitcom because of its setting: a rural, conservative small-town community in drought- stricken Colorado.

Kutcher says working with the subscription-based Netflix, where TV series are aired without advertisements and an entire season can be viewed in one sitting, gave them the freedom to break other sitcom conventions, too - for example, to experiment with darker, moodier lighting than TV comedies usually employ and to use background music in a scene.

"There are some beautiful liberties that you get when you're working with Netflix that I'd never experienced before. They'll suggest things to you that they'd like to see happen, but once they order the show, they let you make your show. As a creator, it allows you to think a little bit outside the box. That's kind of what we've tried to do with the show, insomuch as we're doing a very traditional format, which is a situational comedy with a live audience, but we get to explore the ability to tell the story in a slightly different way.

"We don't have commercial breaks that we're going to, so we don't have to, like, pump in a comedic joke at the end of every scene. We can play out more story because we don't have a 22-minute time capsule, so it allows us to bring in a more dramatic story."

They could also have the characters swear more than is usually allowed on a network sitcom, which Kutcher says reflects not just how many family members really talk to one another but also how middle America communicates.

"The truth is, this is a show about conservative, hardworking people - a family that's just trying to keep their heads above water in the middle of America.

"I grew up in that family and I grew up in the country - in a really small town where, like, it was God, it was church, it was America," says the actor, who was raised in a conservative, religious family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"And my grandfather, who went to church every Sunday, would drop an f-bomb here or there," the star reveals. "It's just honest and I think the thing we are trying to do is reflect the honesty of this world, without disrespect or without trying to take advantage of it.

"There will be times when we will use that language and times when we wouldn't, just like in real life. Our earnest intention is to reflect this world the way that we know it to be."

•The Ranch premieres on Netflix on Friday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'From buddies to brothers'. Print Edition | Subscribe