For these famous Iowans, 2023 was a year of controversy, career highlights, and full-circle moments.
Here’s how 2023 went for the following Iowans:
- Ashton Kutcher
- Elijah Wood
- Shawn Johnson East
- Kurt Warner
- Danai Gurira
- Julia Michaels
- Jefferson White
After supporting felon friend, Ashton Kutcher publicly backpedaled
Actor Ashton Kutcher spent a large part of 2023 dealing with negative press. It all started when his “That ‘70s Show” co-star Danny Masterson went to trial for allegedly drugging and raping two women in the early 2000s. Masterson was ultimately convicted of the crimes in May, but Kutcher and his wife (and fellow co-star) Mila Kunis penned personal letters to the judge, vouching for Masterson’s character and asking for leniency in their friend’s sentencing.
When said letters got leaked, all hell broke loose, and the couple faced immediate and fierce criticism from the public. In response, they posted an apology video to Instagram, which wasn’t well-received, either.
As a result, the father of two resigned as the chair of an anti-sex abuse organization he started. Additionally, unearthed clips of him inappropriately discussing underage, female celebrities went viral. Kutcher broke his social media silence on Thanksgiving, writing “I’m Thankful for ‘No comment’, thankful for learning, thankful for listening. Thankful for sharing this life with you.”
Elijah Wood tried his hand at playing a villain
Although he might forever be known as Frodo Baggins, Elijah Wood is certainly breaking free of the shy, heroic stereotype and embracing divergent roles. In 2023, he acted in the shows “Yellowjackets” and “I’m a Virgo,” produced a documentary, and hung out with his former “Lord of the Rings” costars, but his most surprising role was as villain Fritz Garbinger in a remake of “The Toxic Avenger.”
Filmmaker Macon Blair said the role was written specifically for Wood. “Elijah Wood playing Fritz, who is like the henchman, carries out the dirty deeds for the bad guys, and he’s kind of this Gothic creep-looking guy, you know, he’s bald,” Blair told Collider. “The whole idea was to make him be unrecognizable as sweet, kind-faced Elijah Wood and just have him be as equally as monstrous as Toxie was. I wrote that part for him, and I didn’t really think about anybody else for that one.”
Funnily enough, first looks of Wood’s version of the villain have already drawn tons of comparisons to Gollum, one of the many villains in the LOTR franchise.
Shawn Johnson East will ring in the new year with a new baby
With another baby due in December, Shawn Johnson East will close out 2023 with a brand new addition to her growing family. The retired gymnast and her husband, Andrew East, first announced their pregnancy on Instagram and YouTube, with the caption: “Can’t believe we’re actually saying this…. but our family is GROWING! It’s been such a wild journey the past year and we feel so blessed to share this with you.” Shortly after, Johnson East debuted her bump on the red carpet at The ESPY Awards.
The couple are already parents to son Jett James and daughter Drew Hazel and have become bona-fide parenting influencers with their raw and hilarious content on social media. In addition to motherhood, she has also been vocal about body image, miscarriage, and her connection to the Nashville school shooting in March.
Kurt Warner passed the NFL torch to his son
Things truly came full circle for Kurt Warner this year. In August, the former quarterback watched his son Kade make his NFL debut. The junior Warner, a wideout who played at Nebraska and Kansas State, signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent.
His dad took to X (formerly Twitter) to share a photo of the pair with the caption, “Last SB I played in vs @steelers in @Buccaneers stadium… today my son plays his 1st game for the Bucs Vs Steelers in that same stadium!!! You can’t make this stuff up… & I never thought I’d cheer for TB, how quickly things change! #ProudPapa.”
Another full-circle moment came when Kurt Warner’s other son, E.J., who plays for University of Texas San Antonio, faced off against Josh McCown’s son, Owen, of the Temple Owls. It’s safe to say the boys are following in their famous quarterback dads’ footsteps.
Danai Gurira got her own spinoff series
When the final episode of “The Walking Dead” aired at the end of 2022, viewers were sad to say goodbye to the fan-favorite character Michonne, who is played by Danai Gurira. Therefore, they were absolutely delighted to hear the news that the actor was getting her very own spinoff.
Called “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live,” the series will reportedly focus on the love story between Michonne and Rick Grimes, who is played by Andrew Lincoln. It’s set to premiere on Feb. 25, 2024.
In addition to filming the show, the Grinhell, Iowa native also leaned into activism, partnering with PETA. In September, she and her dog Papi launched a campaign to encourage folks to not keep dogs in hot cars.
Julia Michaels wrote the soundtrack of a new Disney flick
Julia Michaels spent the year working on the project of a lifetime: writing the soundtrack to Disney’s new movie, “Wish.”
The five-time Grammy-nominated musician teamed up with producer and songwriter Benjamin Rice to pen seven original songs for the movie, which premiered in theaters on Nov. 22. Michaels also got to sing in one of the tracks, saying “Not to be cliché, but who gets to say that they get to be a part of Disney’s legacy—not only by getting to write the songs, but by getting to sing the end credits song?”
The multi-platinum artist also spent some time as an American Songwriter judge alongside stars like Jelly Roll, Tommy Lee, and Aly and AJ.
Jefferson White’s career skyrocketed
Even if you don’t know Jefferson White by his given name, odds are you’re aware of his character’s name. The actor, who plays a likable cowboy named Jimmy in the uber-popular show “Yellowstone,” grew up in Mount Vernon and attended Iowa State University. Nowadays, however, he’s a hot commodity in Hollywood.
Thanks to his success in “Yellowstone,” in 2023 alone, White secured roles in “Misprint,” “Eileen,” and “Chicago P.D.” He’s also slated to star in another “Yellowstone” spinoff, “6666.” The series will follow Jimmy’s time at Texas’ famous 6666 ranch, and he’ll be the lead. Although a premiere date hasn’t been announced, fans can’t wait to see what the fan-favorite character gets up to.
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