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Exclusive: Ashton Kutcher photo shoot 1: A behind the scenes look at our cover photo shoot with Ashton Kutcher.
Ashton Kutcher joins the cast of Two and A Half Men this fall. / Robert Sebree/USA WEEKEND Magazine

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1. I wanted it

When I heard they were looking for a replacement for Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men, I mentioned to a friend in passing, “I’d take that job in a heartbeat.”

About a week later I was in Idaho, steelhead fishing with my dad — and I get a call.

It’s my friend, who asked me if I was serious about the job. He said he heard through the Hollywood grapevine that my name had come up for the role. When I asked my dad what he thought, his advice was to “go with your gut.”

I did some research. I watched about 30 episodes. The writing was smart and funny, and I figured it was worth a conversation. I made a call and met with Chuck Lorre, the show’s creator. We had a meeting at his home over bagels and explored 20 versions of what the character could be, what was interesting to me and what would best service the show.

I kept thinking about my time on That ’70s Show. It was the best job I have ever had. I also remembered something Robin Williams said when he visited the set. He had just won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting, and he said he’d “give anything to do another sitcom.” I couldn’t understand it, because at the time all I wanted was a feature-film career. Now I understand.

When I got up to leave our meeting, Chuck said, “This could be fun.” And that was it.

2. The timing was right

Family comes first. My stepdaughter, Tallulah, is a senior in high school, and I wanted to be there for her rather than on a set in Michigan or Mexico or Australia.

It wasn’t so much that I was worried I’d miss one thing in particular — like college applications or prom or meeting with teachers. It’s about being available for everything. I’ve missed enough and I don’t want to be absent for anything else. I just want to be home at night with my wife [Demi Moore] and family.

When I really broke down the decision to take the job, there were so many rewards and few risks — except maybe one: I was stepping into a media frenzy. But I figured I could temper that a bit by keeping the lines of communication open with my social media presence. I can always set the record straight.

˝. The thrill of the unknown

At the end of the day, I took this job because I would be working with the best in the business. Chuck Lorre has a huge track record of success. I was going to bust my butt and my gut told me he’d do the same.

It is scary as hell, but how could I say no? I thrive off of things that scare the hell out of me.

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