Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are standing behind their friend and former That '70s Show co-star Danny Masterson, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Thursday for drugging and raping two women. The couple wrote individual letters of support to the judge following Masterson's conviction, asking for leniency in his sentencing — a move that has garnered significant controversy.
The That '70s Show actor, 47, who co-starred with Kutcher and Kunis in the Fox sitcom from 1998 to 2006, was convicted in May, during his second trial, on two out of three counts of forcible rape. At the time, a verdict could not be reached on the third count, which claimed that the actor had allegedly raped a longtime girlfriend in 2001.
Here's a rundown of the relationship between the couple and Masterson.
How Did Kutcher and Kunis support Masterson through the trial?
Kutcher, 45, and Kunis, 40 — who didn't start dating until 2012, long after the sitcom ended — have received significant criticism for their support of Masterson, particularly due to their advocacy on behalf of the victims of sex crimes. Kutcher, along with his former wife Demi Moore, is the co-founder of a non-profit organization to combat sex trafficking called Thorn. In 2022, Kunis produced and played the leading role in Netflix's Luckiest Girl Alive, a thriller about the trauma caused by sexual assault.
Through Masterson's sentencing process, the couple wrote individual pleas in support of his character to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo. In Kutcher's letter, published by journalist Meghann Cuniff, the Jobs actor called Masterson a "role model to me" and an "extraordinarily honest and intentional human being." He credited Masterson with keeping him out of the "typical Hollywood life of drugs" as a young actor, and also reflected on their relationship in the present, calling his former The Ranch co-star "among few people that I would trust alone with my son or daughter."
In her letter to Judge Olemedo, Kunis called Masterson "an older brother figure to me" and noted he played a "pivotal role in guiding me away from such destructive paths" by "promoting a drug-free lifestyle." Citing his "genuine concern for those around him," Kunis praised Masterson's role as a father who has instilled the values of "integrity, compassion and respect" in his daughter. She concluded by stating she "wholeheartedly vouches" for his "exceptional character."
What has Kutcher said about Masterson in the past?
Kutcher and Masterson's relationship has spanned decades. Following the end of That 70's Show in 2006, the duo teamed up again in 2016 to star in The Ranch, a series about two brothers who run a cattle ranch. (Masterson was fired from the Netflix series in 2017 following the news of the rape allegations, Entertainment Weekly reported at the time.)
But before those allegations surfaced, Kutcher spoke about his friendship with Masterson.
“When we were working on That '70s Show, we always had this dream about doing another show together,” Kutcher told USA Today in 2016. “I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19. Danny became an older brother to me, showing me the ropes.” Calling themselves "a couple of alpha males," Kutcher said their relationship is one of "brotherly camaraderie."
Kutcher has done his best to avoid discussing Masterson's legal woes in the present day. Back in January, Kutcher explained that his avoidance of the topic is based on his compassion for Masterson's daughter.
"Someday, his kid is going to read about this," the actor told Esquire, noting that he "wholesale feel for anybody who feels like they were violated in any way." Adding that he hoped Masterson would be "found innocent of the charges brought against him," he shared that "ultimately, I can't know. I'm not the judge. I'm not the jury. I'm not the DA. I'm not the victim. And I'm not the accused. And so, in that case, I don't have a space to comment."
Kutcher also spoke about how Masterson kept the cast of That '70s Show in line.
"He's like, One f***ing rule: Don’t do anything fucking stupid and f*** this up. Because if you f*** it up, you f*** it up for everybody,'" Kutcher recalled, noting that Masterson made it clear he would not tolerate drug use.
What has Kunis said about Masterson in the past?
Kunis, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine at age 7, was just 14 when she auditioned for the role of Jackie Burkhart on the hit Fox show. As she became an adult, she acknowledged how influential the rest of the cast was on her during her formative years. Last year, Kunis told Vanity Fair that since the show debuted during "the heyday of older kids playing younger kids," she could have felt very out of place with the rest of the group, who were generally four to six years older than her. (Kunis has since confirmed that she lied about her age when she auditioned.)
But despite the age gap, she found the cast positively influenced her, and never isolated her due to her age. She shared she had the "greatest experience" on the show and was "100%" embraced and never treated as "lesser than."
The group also kept her on the straight and narrow during her formative years in Hollywood.
"I will say, the reason I don't do drugs, the reason I didn't get into drugs, all of that was because nobody on the set did," Kunis said. "I looked up to them, at 14, and so the trajectory of my career, or my life, could've gone any which way, but it didn't. The set was cool. They played poker on Friday nights and they drank beer and I was like, 'Oh cool.' But that was it. That was the extent of that."
In the wake of Masterson's conviction, some have also pointed to Kunis and Kutcher's 2002 joint interview with Rosie O'Donnell, in which the co-stars discussed Masterson making a "bet" with Kutcher about using "tongue" while kissing Kunis onscreen for the first time, when she was 14 and he was 19.
"I had never kissed a guy, and I was so [nervous]. Ashton's an attractive guy, and I was a 14-year-old little girl. I was extremely scared for my life," Kunis joked in the resurfaced interview. "[Ashton] was very nice about it, and was like 'Don't worry.' Then Danny goes to him and says, 'Dude, I'll give you $10 if you French kiss her.'"