They play Colt (Kutcher), a faded football star, and his smart-ass younger brother, Rooster (Masterson), who work together to save their family’s failing Colorado ranch. (Ten episodes premiere on April 1, with 10 more dropping at a later date.)
The guys open up about maintaining their comic timing, bucking sitcom sluggishness and the secret to success as behind-the-scenes bros.
Together again! How did this come about?
Ashton Kutcher: We’ve been trying to find a way to work with each other again since That ’70s Show ended [in 2006]. I’d be doing a film and Danny would be doing another show, or I was doing a show and he was doing a show. We could never get things to line up.
Now that you have, does it feel like old times?
Danny Masterson: Yeah! We play off each other well because our styles are so different. I think our timing works together. Kutcher is incredible at being charming and getting laughs doing something goofy, then I basically assault him with insults. [Laughs]
The Ranch is a strange hybrid of a classic multicam sitcom with a live studio audience that doesn’t back away from intense family drama.
Kutcher: We looked at everything else on Netflix and realized if the show was made the old-fashioned way, it would stick out like a sore thumb. Everything from how we built our stories to lighting to the music to the sets, we tried to challenge the status quo.
Masterson: And doing it with episodes that are 30 to 35 minutes long instead of 20. It makes for more interesting stories and more reality. We don’t have to end a scene on a joke every time.
Did you ever find yourselves slipping into your ’70s Show characters, Kelso and Hyde?
Masterson: There’s not really a version of either of those guys that are in Rooster or Colt.
Kutcher: I think people that loved our relationship on that show will love this relationship as well.
After all these years, what’s the biggest fight you two have had?
Kutcher: We fight about everything. [Laughs] We literally got in an argument this week because Danny didn’t want to turn a certain way in a scene. I was like, “You’ve turned that way for 20 f---ing years, but you don’t want to turn that way now?” It’s the best thing that neither of us gets offended. You often get actors at a point in their career when nobody can tell them a thing.
Masterson: Our fights are “You should do it like this.” “No, I should do it like this.” “No, dude, just do it like that.” Or “Oh, yeah, that works.” And that’s the fight.
Sam Elliott and Debra Winger play your parents. Did you just seek out the most cowboy-like actors you could think of?
Kutcher: For Sam, it was about finding an Archie Bunker who can say what’s on his mind but not be entirely offensive. And he had to be someone you’re scared of—it doesn’t matter how old I get, I still feel like my dad can kick my ass. The minute I met Sam, I went, “I am not going to tangle with this guy.” Debra was actually on a ranch in upstate New York. I would talk to her on the phone during the casting process and she had this simple-truth quality.
Have you figured out how to make Sam break yet?
Masterson: Oh, yeah, that’s easy. [Laughs] Just stare at him long enough and he starts laughing.
What’s it like when you guys hang out off-camera?
Masterson: We talk about our kids! [Laughs] And things we did when I was 22 and Ashton was 20, like flying on jets to Costa Rica for the weekend. Then we’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, [my kid] touched my face and said, ‘I love you, Dada.’” We reminisce about old times and how much more fun it is now having baby girls.
You really have grown up together.
Kutcher: Ever since I got to Los Angeles, he’s been like a big brother to me and shown me the ropes and called me on my s--t. And I’m so grateful for that.
The Ranch, Series Premiere, Friday, April 1, Netflix