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Why Danny Masterson was written off 'The Ranch'

What will the Netflix series look like without the actor?
danny masterson the ranch
Find out why Danny Masterson is leaving 'The Ranch.' Photo by Greg Gayne/Netflix

Part 5 of the Netflix series “The Ranch,” which stars Ashton Kutcher, Debra Winger, Sam Elliott and Danny Masterson as the Bennetts, a family of Colorado ranchers, is about to debut. This is significant to the interested and uninterested alike, because the new batch of episodes will also be the last for Masterson and his character “Rooster.”

The how and why of Rooster’s departure won’t be explained until the first chunk of “The Ranch” season three drops on Friday, June 15, but the reasoning behind Masterson’s exit is clear. Last December, Netflix cut ties with the actor nine months after three women accused him of rape. His accusers also claimed the Church of Scientology, where Masterson is a member, had tried to silence them in order to protect the actor.

“As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of ‘The Ranch,’” read an official statement. “Yesterday was his last day on the show and production will resume in early 2018 without him.” Meanwhile, the actor defended himself, saying he was “very disappointed in Netflix’s decision” while insisting he had “never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.”

Masterson’s scandal notwithstanding, what will “The Ranch” look like once Rooster is gone? While Kutcher’s character Colt, the semi-pro football player who returns home, is the central character, his family and friends round out a fun ensemble that’s just as integral to the story.

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Why Danny Masterson was written off 'The Ranch'

Danny Masterson the ranch netflix

Whether it’s his on-again, off-again parents, Beau (Elliott) and Maggie (Winger), or his older brother Rooser (Masterson) and his high school sweetheart, Abby (Elisha Cuthbert), Colt’s world is big. If any one piece is missing, the story will have to compensate in a manner that sticks to the show’s formula, yet doesn’t feel cheap.

The Rooster role was equal parts comedy fodder and dramatic foil for Kutcher’s Colt, so if the Masterson-less “The Ranch” wants to continue with the same successful sitcom structure, the showrunners will need to replace it with something similar. A character, and an actor, who will offer audiences something familiar and new at the same time.

Enter Dax Shepard. Back in March, Netflix announced the comedy actor had been cast in a recurring role for the second half of season three. Deadline revealed the casting but stressed it wasn’t meant to fully replace Masterson. Entertainment Weekly then confirmed the news, saying Shepard would play “Luke Matthews, a former soldier who has ties” to the family’s ranch.

Whether Luke’s “ties” are personal (he’s an old friend of Colt’s) or professional (he worked as a ranch hand for the Bennetts in Colt’s absence) doesn’t matter, really. All regular “The Ranch” viewers will care about is if he is able to fill the slot vacated by Rooster. If Shepard’s performance, and the writers’ storylines, manage to help subscribers forget about Masterson altogether, however, Netflix probably won’t mind.

Part 5 of “The Ranch” debuts Friday, June 15 on Netflix.