Danny Masterson and Bijou Phillips have carved out a relatively quiet existence for a Hollywood couple, especially one that counts Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis among their inner circle.
They married in Ireland, share only the occasional photo of their now 3-year-old daughter Fianna on Instagram and keep the personal chit-chat to a minimum. They're both Scientologists but they're hardly the first celebrity Scientologists who come to mind when you think about the church's most famous adherents. Or they didn't used to be, anyway.
While Masterson, best known for his role as the sideburn-rocking smart-ass Hyde on That '70s Show, had been acting here and there after the hit sitcom ended in 2006 (including in three movies with his wife), he didn't return to TV in a major role until 2012, when he starred on TBS' Men at Work for three seasons. (All the while he had also been making a name for himself as DJ Mom Jeans, having taken deejaying up first as a hobby in 1999.) And it wasn't really until last year, when he and longtime buddy Kutcher reunited onscreen (and as executive producers) for the Netflix comedy The Ranch, that a project of his—or he himself—was getting that much press again.
And now, despite the show being a hit with the Netflix crowd, the headlines have taken a turn.
Ten months after he publicly denied rape allegations dating back to the early '00s, Netflix has fired Masterson from The Ranch in the wake of what amounted to a public call for his ouster. His firing comes amid the ongoing reckoning taking place in Hollywood and beyond that has resulted in an unprecedented number of women coming forward and men stepping down, being suspended or "taking leave," or simply getting fired after being accused of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment and indecency to assault.
Netflix had been called out—on social media and by the actual media—for the apparent double standard: It took a few days, but Kevin Spacey was fired from House of Cards after Anthony Rapp alleged the Oscar winner had made a sexual advance toward him when he was 14; Netflix then immediately cut ties with Louis C.K., after the New York Times reported that five women had accused the comedian of misconduct. Meanwhile, Netflix had not taken any action against Masterson, and almost a year had gone by since the allegations against him first came out. They said in November they were "aware" of the investigation and would "respond if developments occur."
"I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix's decision to write my character off of The Ranch," Masterson said in a statement released Tuesday. "From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.
"In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I've worked so closely with over the past three seasons. I wish them nothing but success. I am also so thankful to the fans that have supported me and continue to do so."
Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images
Ashton Kutcher, who with then-wife Demi Mooreco-founded the organization Thorn to combat sex trafficking and abuse, and who in July spoke out about improving gender equality in the workplace, has yet to comment on Masterson's firing. Netflix said in a statement that Masterson's last day was yesterday and production on The Ranch would resume next year. New episodes are scheduled to premiere on the streaming service Dec. 15.
In March, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed it was investigating sexual assault allegations made by three women against Masterson. The actor at the time linked the accusations to the furor kicked up by the A&E docu-series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, in which the actress and fellow ex-Scientologists have slammed the church's practices and treatment of both current and former members. (The church has repeatedly characterized Remini as a bitter opportunist in response to her stated mission to bring them down.)
"Based on reading the anti-Scientology blog that posted this story, these false allegations appear to be motivated to boost Leah Remini's anti-Scientology television series since [the first accuser] only came forward after connecting with Leah Remini," Masterson's rep told E! News in March. "The alleged incident occurred in the middle of their six-year relationship, after which she continued to be his longtime girlfriend. Significantly, during their long relationship, she made numerous inconsistent claims that she was previously raped by at least three other famous actors and musicians. When Danny ended the relationship, she continued to pursue him, even making threats to beat up his current wife Bijou Phillips unless she left him."
The blog post in question stated that the accuser had told police in a letter that the church had threatened her with the dreaded label of "suppressive person," the precursor to losing "everything and everyone," if she told anyone about Masterson or reported him to police.
Today the Church of Scientology said in a statement to E! News, "The Church adamantly denies the implication the Church would ignore the criminal behavior of certain members, especially at the expense of alleged victims. What is being stated is utterly untrue. This has nothing to do with religion. This story is being manipulated to push a bigoted agenda. The Church follows all laws and cooperates with law enforcement. Any statement or implication to the contrary is false."
In November, in response to the renewed outcry to get to the bottom of the accusations against Masterson, an attorney for the actor told Vanity Fair that police had investigated the allegations twice—in 2004 and earlier this year—and there was nothing to them.
Meanwhile, Phillips, who has fought her own quiet battles over the years, has yet to issue any comment on the allegations against her husband. (Phillips herself issued an apology last month after Mean Girls actor Daniel Franzese accused her of body-shaming him and bullying him about his sexuality on the set of the 2001 indie drama Bully. "I am so mortified by this behavior and have contacted Daniel and apologized to him privately," she wrote on social media. "I am not and never have been homophobic. I have nothing but love for the LGBTQ community and Daniel.")
The model and actress, who hails from a famous—and famously fractured—family, was hospitalized in February to prepare for a kidney transplant after having suffered from kidney disease for years. In April, Masterson shared on Instagram that she had undergone a successful transplant.
Victor Hugo/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
"My lady has been slowing dying for the past 7 years of an incurable kidney disease," he wrote. "She was given the gift of an encore by a tall angel. Our daughter will have a mother. We do not take lightly how incredibly fortunate we are. 100% successful transplant. Now the real work begins for her to silence any chance of rejection. Our deepest gratitude to a perfect transplant team. And a life owed to a tall drink of water," the actor added, referring to the rather handsome donor in the photo he posted. "Sláinte!"
Phillips, the daughter of the Mamas and the Papas singer John Phillips and his third wife, Geneviève Waïte, has conscientiously chosen privacy since starting a family of her own, knowing all too well just how glaring the spotlight can be and having every reason to be guarded.
She started modeling when she was 13, starring in a now infamous Calvin Klein campaign in the '90s that was slammed for sexualizing underage models, and she became a familiar face on the wild party circuit, doing the Paris Hilton-Lindsay Lohan-type social scene 10 years before Hilton and Lohan would even arrive on the scene.
Steve Azzara/Corbis via Getty Images
She spent time in rehab at the behest of her father and sobered up by the time she was 21.
"If you were 14 years old and able to live on your own in an apartment in New York City, and you got invited to all these clubs, and you got a bank account and you had a car service you could call so that you could go wherever you wanted... what would happen?" Phillips fired back in a 2002 interview with The Guardian. (At the time she was dating fellow rock legend scion Sean Lennon.)
Asked if she was mad at her parents for allowing her to have all that early freedom when she was still just a kid, she insisted she wasn't. "The fact of the matter is I'm 21 now," Phillips said. "I stay home. I feed my dogs. I don't really go out. I work. Most people my age are out doing the things I was doing at 14. I'm happy that I got all that out of the way, out of my system, when I was a kid."
Her parents, who both battled drug addiction (John Phillips, who died in 2001, had a liver transplant in 1992), divorced in 1985, when Phillips was 5. She lived primarily with her dad in Malibu until her exodus to New York.
"My dad was a great dad," Phillips said. "An awesome dad. He had his own problems. He took custody of me, he took me to school every single day, made me breakfast, picked me up, made me dinner. When I used to be angry at him, it wasn't really my anger. It was more [half-sisters Mackenzie and Chynna Phillips'] anger, and I was sort of projecting that. They were so pissed off at him, and I thought: 'Well, I'll be pissed off, too.' If my big sisters are telling me that my dad's an a--hole, then OK, he's an a--hole. Now it's like, 'Wow, he did such a good job.'"
Masterson and Phillips met when they were seated next to each other at a celebrity poker tournament in Las Vegas in 2005 and hit it off.
"Every guy at the table was flirting with me but Danny," Phillips recalled to Paper magazine in 2009. "He wasn't laughing at my jokes. I was like, 'who is this Danny Masterson and what does he think he's doing?'"
Masterson told the mag, "I had only known her as the little crazy girl. After Vegas, and talking to her a few times, I was shocked by how unbelievably intelligent she was. She knew every book I had ever read. I was like, this girl is amazing."
They bonded over music, growing up fast (Masterson started acting at 5) and the perils of fame, but they proudly put their opposing interests on display. For instance, Phillips actually found poker very boring, while Masterson was an avid player. She's had horses since she was a kid and would ride at every opportunity, while Masterson was a gun collector who enjoyed trips to the firing range. And, he told Paper, he was "very allergic to f--king animals." Phillips, meanwhile, was the vegan, while Masterson "almost only eats meat," she said.
What they did share by the 2009 interview, however, was Scientology (there was no mention of it in Phillips' Guardian interview; Masterson grew up with it).
Several years after Tom Cruise apologized to Brooke Shields over publicly disparaging the use of medication to treat postpartum depression (or any depression), as she did, Phillips, according to Paper, went off "on a long tangent about the dangers of psychiatrists medicating patients for depression or anxiety."
"My grandparents didn't take any pills and they were fine," she said. "Just buck up and get over it. Stop being such a f--king pansy."
Asked if he felt being a Scientologist had helped him succeed in Hollywood, Masterson explained, "The definition of Scientology is 'the study of knowledge.' Obviously, the more knowledge you have in a given field, such as life, the more confident you are as a person. I don't feel any pressure from Hollywood at all. It's 80 percent a community of artists creating art—there's no pressure making art, it's a necessity."
They got engaged in March 2009, a couple months after the Paper interview came out. They eventually married in an intimate ceremony at a castle in Tipperary, Ireland, on Oct. 18, 2011. Danny's brother Chris Masterson served as his best man.
Whether they had planned to have a long engagement or not, their early betrothed bliss was rocked in September 2009 when Bijou's half-sister Mackenzie Phillips claimed in her memoir, High on Arrival, that she had spent 10 years in a sexual relationship with their father, John Phillips, that started when she was 18 and John raped her when she was passed out after a drug binge.
"I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my father. I don't know how it started," Mackenzie, who co-starred on the 1970s sitcom One Day at a Time, said on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The incestuous relationship continued after she got married at 19, she said, and only ended when she got pregnant and, fearing John was the father, had an abortion.
"I boxed it away. I started very early on in my life compartmentalizing... This was the mother of all difficult experiences," she told Oprah. "I [have spent] the last 30 years trying not to look at it."
Mackenzie's mom was Phillips' first wife, Susan Adams. Her former stepmother Michelle Phillips, also in the Mamas & the Papas and mother of Chynna Phillips, told The Hollywood Reporter at the time (per ABC News) that Mackenzie's story was absolutely not true.
"Mackenzie is jealous of her siblings, who have accomplished a lot and did not become drug addicts," Michelle said.
Chynna, however, backed up Mackenzie's account, telling Winfrey that her mother was understandably angry about it.
"Am I exceedingly joyful that my family secret that I told maybe my therapist, my husband and my very best friend in the whole word [is now public]?" the Wilson Phillips singer said. "No."
In her own statement, Bijou Phillips said, "When I was 13, Mackenzie told me that she had a consensual sexual relationship with our father. This news was confusing and scary, as I lived alone with my father since I was 3, I didn't know what to believe and it didn't help that shortly there after Mackenzie told me it didn't happen..."
"I understand Mackenzie's need to come clean with a history she feels will help others, but it's devastating to have the world watch as we try and mend broken fences, especially when the man in question isn't here to defend himself."
So 2009 was bittersweet for Bijou, but at least she had Masterson by her side. In addition to getting engaged, three films they were both in—Wake, Made for Each Other and The Bridge to Nowhere—all happened to come out over the course of the year. In 2011 they had their tiny, romantic wedding in Ireland (the That '70s Show crowd wasn't there, but actors Ben Foster, Mike Pena and Ethan Suplee were).
Phillips' most recent acting role was in the Fox sitcom Raising Hope, her final episodes airing in 2013, a year before she and Masterson welcomed their first child. Fianna Francis Masterson was born on Feb. 14, 2014, her proud dad sharing on Instagram, "Mom and baby are doing amazing. You can all refer to me as dj dadpants from now on."
So Bijou then put work on hold for motherhood—while also, as the couple only recently revealed, battling kidney disease.
In 2015, Scientology was a hot topic again upon the premiere of the Alex Gibney-directed HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (propelled by Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear), and Masterson happened to be at the Sundance Film Festival that year as well when then film was having its premiere.
"I heard about that documentary; the documentary where they interviewed eight people who hate Scientology," the actor told Paper, talking to the magazine for the first time since the 2009 cover story in which they broached the topic just a bit. "Should be pretty interesting. I wonder if Sundance would allow a documentary of, like, eight people who hate Judaism. But you know, my religion's fair game, I guess, 'cause it's new."
Talking about his roots in Scientology, he credited it for the solid relationship he had with his family, growing up on Long Island. He and Chris have two half-siblings on their mom's side, Jordan and Alanna Masterson, and one half-brother, William Masterson, on their dad's side.
"I didn't really notice anything different in terms of my upbringing till I was in junior high school, maybe a little bit before that," Masterson said. "I grew up in New York and it was just sort of like, everyone hated their parents and was always cheating and lying, and I was able to just be friends with my parents. A lot of people have that in their life, but I noticed that all my friends who were Scientologists, kids I had grown up with, we all sort of had the same thing: easy communication. It wasn't this whole "us versus them" thing."
He said he started coursework when he was 8 or 9 and then, when he was 15, old enough to read Dianetics, he decided it was "f--king awesome."
Masterson acknowledged the running theme of Scientology and psychiatry not mixing. "You will not find a Scientologist who does not fucking hate psychiatrists," he told Paper. "Because their solution for mental and spiritual problems is drugs. So let's talk about putting a Band-Aid on something that's just going to get worse and worse and worse...Scientology handles those things, those mental problems that people have. It gets rid of them. It gets rid of them by that person doing it for themselves. That's the solution to depression, not f--kin' Prozac and whatever other pill that makes the kid then walk into a goddamn school and kill other kids."
Asked if he felt Scientology would eventually be widely accepted as a religion, he said it already felt accepted to him.
"I haven't had a conversation like this about my philosophy—I don't think ever," he said. "But I love doing it and have no problem doing it. I work, I have a family and I'm a spiritual being who likes to understand why things happen in the world and want to learn more so that I can have them not affect me adversely. So if that's weird, then, well, you can go f--k yourself."