PR Challenge: Stars Who Trash Their Own Projects

We were more than a little amused yesterday to read news of one Angus T. Jones, an actor better known as “that kid on Two and a Half Men”, pulling what looked like an outright effort to sabotage his own show.

Jones appeared in a bizarre YouTube video that just happens to double as a promo spot for The Forerunner Chronicles, a multi-media project pushing the “end times” Seventh-day Adventist movement. He makes his new-found allegiance to God quite clear in the pseudo-interview while bemoaning his current gig, telling viewers to “please stop watching Two and a Half Men” and “filling your head with filth” and encouraging the public to “do some research on the effects of television and your brain” because “it’s bad news.”

This little incident provided the Internet with more awkward chuckles than a Charlie Sheen rant while creating a huge headache for anyone who makes money producing, promoting or performing on what remains one of TV’s top-rated sitcoms (and that’s quite a few people). Based on follow-up reports, it seems like the only folks happy with Jones’s online outburst are his friends at Forerunner Chronicles and the Valley Crossroads Seventh-day Adventist Church–because everyone loves free PR from a semi-famous “soldier of truth.”*

Anyway, we had to ask: why would a massively successful actor pull a stunt like this? And how can the show’s PR team contain the damage done?

The show’s creators have yet to comment, and their hands-off approach may prove effective. If millions kept watching Two and a Half Men after Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie Sheen, then we feel like they will probably stick with the show through this latest stage of its extended adolescence.

Still, we’d love to get your opinions: How should PR teams respond to self-destructive crises like this one? Should the show’s reps just shut up and hope Jones does the same, or should they prepare to take him off the air?

For context: Our trivia-happy friends at Mental Floss reminded us that Jones is by no means the first actor to pooh-pooh his own biggest hit–is anyone surprised to learn that Alec Guiness didn’t care for Star Wars? But the examples in their post all concern stars dissing their films in retrospect. For a more relevant comparison, here’s a present-day superstar who doesn’t seem to think too highly of the saga that made him famous.

*On a side note, the Forerunner folks are very consistent with their messaging: Their site contains plenty of posts like this one about “the close of time”, the “last great conflict”, the “abominable pontifical pomp of the Bishop of Rome” and the latest news on everybody’s favorite bad guy, Satan. It’s quite a fun read if you have five minutes!