'Two and a Half Men': Melanie Lynskey 'crazy about' Ashton Kutcher

melanie-lynskey-ashton-kutcher-two-and-a-half-men-episodic-325.jpg Melanie Lynskey may have a new "Two and a Half Men" romantic target, but she's still a Rose by the same name.

Busy on the big screen these days, too -- starring in "Hello I Must Be Going," which has earned her a Gotham Independent Film Award nomination for Breakthrough Actor, and also appearing in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- the New Zealand native starts a return stint on the CBS sitcom Thursday (Oct. 25), with a plot that many of the show's fans likely have been anticipating.

Lynskey resurfaced briefly as Charlie Harper's (former cast member Charlie Sheen) sweetly spacey neighbor/stalker Rose in last year's ninth-season premiere that opened with his funeral. Now she's back more prominently, setting her sights on his successor in the Harper household, Walden Schmidt ( Ashton Kutcher) ... to the great dismay of Charlie's brother, Alan (two-time Emmy winner Jon Cryer).

"It was completely different," the pleasant Lynskey tells Zap2it of going back to the show, "which is funny because all of the crew is exactly the same. There are guys there who I know and love, and obviously, Jon and our director Jamie ('National Lampoon's Animal House' acting alum James Widdoes) are still there. Otherwise, it felt like being on somebody else's show."

When Kutcher made his "Two and a Half Men" debut, Lynskey encountered him only briefly, "and I felt a little bad because I wanted to be welcoming, but it was also a super-emotional time for me. It had been a really long time of working with somebody and caring for somebody (Sheen), and I've never been really good at that kind of transitioning.

"I didn't really get to know Ashton, plus I was really only in that one scene. This time, we had so much interaction, I'm crazy about him now. I'd watched a couple of his episodes, and I liked what he was doing. It was really nice, working with him, to see how passionate he was and how much he cared that every joke 'landed' and made sense in the context of his character."

Lynskey adds that Kutcher is "really committed to making the show as good as possible," which undoubtedly pleases CBS and Warner Bros. Television, given the size of his "Two and a Half Men" paycheck. Last week, Kutcher replaced Sheen again when Forbes Magazine named him the top moneymaker among today's television actors, with a one-year take of $24 million.

Keeping Rose the same character that viewers have known was "a little bit of a tricky thing," Lynskey allows, in juxtaposing her against a potential love interest other than Charlie. "Ashton was worried about that, in case there are new people watching who haven't seen the character before, but it's set up in a way where Rose is explained. Walden comes home from meeting her, and Alan is like, 'Uh, listen ... .'

"They were very respectful toward me, making sure I was comfortable with what the story line was going to be," notes Lynskey. "They know that I want to respect the history I have on the show, and the history I have with Charlie. I feel like that relationship was really special." In fact, Lynskey would enjoy reuniting with Sheen on his FX series "Anger Management," which she says there was an early conversation about.

Coming back to "Two and a Half Men" occasionally, Lynskey has seen -- and been startled by -- the growth spurts of young co-star Angus T. Jones, alias Alan's son Jake. "There was one time when I hadn't been on for a year or so," she recalls, "and someone came up to me and went, 'Hey, Mel!' It took me a second, then I realized, 'Oh, my gosh. That man is Angus.' It was the weirdest moment. I was like, 'He's kind of cute.'"

While it seems a bit ironic to Lynskey to be cited for a "breakthrough" movie performance when she's been making films for nearly two decades -- from her debut in director Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures," which paired her with a pre- "Titanic" Kate Winslet, to her portrayal of George Clooney's about-to-wed sister in "Up in the Air" -- she's excited for her current recognition.

"It's really, really nice," Lynskey confirms of her notices for "Hello I Must Be Going," about a recent divorcee's involvement with a much younger man.  "I feel like I've had the best-case scenario for almost 20 years. I've been working consistently, but not ever pinned down to one particular kind of thing. I've had a lot of freedom in the work I've gotten to do, and I really like that. I feel like everything is coalescing at this one moment."
Photo/Video credit: CBS