People of a certain age remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the blonde heartthrob whose face was plastered all over 90s teen magazines. For years, the child actor possessed a level of fame normally reserved for boy band members.
But then, at the height of JTT mania, he disappeared. After leaving the sitcom Home Improvement (his claim to fame) to focus on school, Thomas slipped into obscurity. See what became of the former teen idol, and find out if he has any plans to return to acting.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas Was A Child Actor In The ‘90s
You may recognize Jonathan Taylor Thomas from a number of parts he played as a child actor. He began acting at age 9, playing Kevin Brady (Greg Brady’s son) on The Brady Bunch spin-off The Bradys. He also voiced Simba in Disney’s animated version of The Lion King.
He became a household name in the 1990s when he was cast as Randy Taylor on Tim Allen‘s ABC sitcom Home Improvement. Thomas’ role as Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’s middle child lasted seven-and-a-half seasons, but his character was written off in 1998.
The cast reunited in 2011, at which point Thomas reflected on his years as a pint-sized (and then teenage) performer on the Emmy-nominated series.
“It was really remarkable how easily everyone slipped back into our old banter and behavior with each other,” Thomas told Entertainment Weekly. “It was though as nothing had changed, and we had literally stepped back onto the set. It really felt comfortable, the way we were joking with each other. It was like a family reunion, like old times.”
Home Improvement wrapped in 1999. Although it lives on in syndication, it’s hard to believe that it’s been over two decades since we last saw Randy Taylor. It’s even harder to believe that Thomas didn’t capitalize on his popularity, but he had other priorities in mind.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas Vanished From The Spotlight
For a few years after leaving Home Improvement, Thomas took the occasional film and TV role. He made appearances on Ally McBeal, Smallville, 8 Simple Rules, and Veronica Mars. He also worked as a voice actor for a number of animated productions, including Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys.
But for the most part, he kept a low profile. He even skipped out on the Home Improvement series finale—a decision that was said to upset Tim Allen.
“You can’t be trapped in this bubble called the acting industry,” Thomas told Premiere. “The industry is neurotic and weird, and so when I go home and I play basketball with my friends. I’m not Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I’m just Jonathan. I don’t like hanging out with other actors and actresses.”
“How serious do you take this stuff?” he asked himself aloud. “I mean, you should be focused on doing a good job, but… every job has an end.”
So he dedicated the early aughts to the pursuit of higher learning. In 2000, Thomas enrolled at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy and history. He also studied abroad in Scotland, but ultimately earned a degree from Columbia University’s School of General Studies in 2010.
“To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool,” Thomas told People. “It was a novel experience for me.”
JTT Made A Brief Comeback On Last Man Standing From 2013-2015
It’s not that Thomas regrets going into acting. In fact, in 2013, he reunited with his on-screen parents, Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson, to appear on the sitcom Last Man Standing.
Perhaps his small recurring part was a way to make amends for his sudden departure from Home Improvement. In a 1999 interview with TV Guide, Allen expressed his dismay at Thomas’ decision to leave the series.
“He said [quitting] was about going to school, but then he did some films,” said Allen. “Did he want to do films? Did he want to go to school? It got mixed up in the translation. I mentioned [publicly] that I was confused. I don’t think he liked that.”
Clearly, there are no hard feelings. Check out Thomas playing a part in Allen’s latest series:
What Is Jonathan Taylor Thomas Doing Now?
Thomas doesn’t indulge in the celebrity side of acting. He has no known social media accounts, and we never see him popping up in tabloids.
But that doesn’t mean he quit the business entirely. He is currently a board member of SAG-AFTRA, the labor union that represents 160,000-plus people working in film and television.
And in 2018, former Home Improvement co-star Zachery Ty Bryan told Access that he, Thomas, and Macaulay Culkin were working on a potential project. (Nothing came to fruition, which may have been for the best, given Bryan’s recent legal troubles.)
“I think at this point, I’d eventually like to work behind the camera,” Thomas told Entertainment Weekly. “That’s not to say I would never act again, I’m not quite sure to be honest. I still have a passion for TV and film could see myself working in it.”
JTT the teen idol is long gone. However, the man known as Jonathan Taylor Thomas is just getting started. He just doesn’t need to share selfies or tweets with the world to prove it.