Following a recent high-profile rant by "Two and a Half Men" star Angus T. Jones that called the show "filth" and told viewers not to watch it, it's unclear what's next for the 19-year-old -- or for the show itself. Jones, who plays Jake Harper on the sitcom, also said he "doesn't want to be on" it anymore. But it seems neither the young actor nor his reps has contacted anyone on the production about quitting the show formally, and creator Chuck Lorre hasn't commented either. TMZ reports that a rehearsal is scheduled for this morning, though.
Will we see a Bible-tinged repeat of former "Men" star Charlie Sheen's extended public meltdown and break with the show? Too soon to say. But how did things reach this point in the first place?
Jones, who started acting in commercials at age 4, originally hails from Austin, TX. His parents moved the family to California when Jones was that age so that his father, Kelly, could go into business with his uncle, and in remarks Jones made last month to a Seventh-day Adventist group, he recalled his mother saying that, because they'd moved close to the industry, Jones could "go and try the acting thing." (You can hear the full audio from TheWrap.com.)
Jones's first lead film role was in "See Spot Run," co-starring David Arquette; just two years later, Lorre asked Jones to try out for the Jake Harper part after seeing the young actor play Dennis Quaid's son in "The Rookie." His IMDb biography notes that he nailed the audition; he was the first kid the casting agents saw -- and the last, hearing he had the gig before he even left the audition. ("It was great not having to have the anticipation of a phone call," Jones has remarked.)
A great break for a young actor… but the phrase "child star" has become synonymous with "acting out" and "cracking up." A religious awakening is by no means proof of insanity, of course. But Jones's unequivocally negative remarks about his show (and television in general; in the infamous video, Jones also warns the audience to "do some research on the effects of television and your brain") could indicate that the pressures of fame at a young age, not to mention a challenging shooting schedule on a set with plenty of melodrama behind the scenes, have started to take their toll. Is this why Jones turned so visibly to the Lord?
Maybe, but it doesn't seem like it. Speaking to that SDA group (on his nineteenth birthday), Jones said he'd always attended Christian schools, but wasn't very spiritual his own self as a kid. After getting to high school, Jones's grades took a dip; at around the same time, his parents had "marital issues" and decided to divorce. Jones had a girlfriend at the time, and spent as much time with her and other friends -- and out of the house -- as he could, experimenting a bit with drugs. (He did say that "God protected" him from drinking or losing his virginity.)
It wasn't until the turn of last year, though, that he began to question his role on "Men." Ashton Kutcher had replaced Charlie Sheen on the show, and Jones wasn't sure he would come back. He found God not long after that, apparently via Jesus or the Holy Spirit speaking to him through a friend. In the Forerunner video, he describes shopping for churches -- "every Sunday I was going to, like, three or four" -- and looking specifically for an African-American congregation. He says he was "looking for a black gospel theme? I don't know; I like black people." (The Forerunner is African-American; when Jones worries that he may have given offense, The Forerunner laughs, "You're good, bro.")
People are complicated; Jones's conversion could be a response to upheaval on-set, an attempt to find solace after his parents' divorce, a genuine spiritual response, or some of each. But there's no denying that some of it is a little… off; the Forerunner video also includes denunciations of Jay-Z and other hip-hop artists as tools of the devil, and Jones's defensive insistence that the Seventh-day Adventists aren't a "cult." (Jones's mother, Carey, told the "Daily Mail" that she's concerned her son is being "exploited" by the church.)
And God may have protected him from booze, but might not have much sway in a court of law; Jones's remarks may constitute a breach of contract. An EW.com piece notes that most actors' contracts include "disparagement clauses" preventing the stars from going too negative in public. It's seldom enforced, because it's "so subjective," but calling "Men" "filth" sounds pretty clear to us.
However the controversy settles itself, at least Jones isn't a stranger to it. Not only did Sheen's antics make headlines for years, but Danny Masterson ("That 70's Show"), Jones's cousin, is also a member of a divisive religious group: Scientology.
Watch E!'s coverage of the dust-up right here:
"Two and a Half Men" airs Thursdays at 8:30 PM on CBS.