Jonathan Taylor Thomas Went From Fame to Obscurity

Jonathan Taylor Thomas (born Jonathan Taylor Weiss) was born in 1981 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to Sacramento, California, when he was four. By the age of seven, Jonathan worked as a print advertisement model. From print, he jumped to acting, appearing in TV commercials for brands such as Kellogg’s cereal and Mattel toys.

Home Improvement / Jonathan Taylor Thomas / Jonathan Taylor Thomas / Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
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He got the name Jonathan Taylor Thomas from his brother, whose middle name was Thomas. In 1990, he landed his first major on-screen role as Kevin Brady, the son of Greg Brady, in the Brady Bunch spin-off called The Bradys.

A Failed First Attempt

The television show The Bradys failed, so Jonathan was off looking for his next big acting role. He landed a one-off appearance on In Living Color in 1991. This was not the big break he was hoping for, but it led to a role that would change his career.

A still of Jonathan Taylor Thomas in The Bradys.
Source: ABC

After his appearance, he was cast as Randy Taylor on ABC’s Home Improvement. This was the show that would make him a star. He was only ten years old when he became Randy Taylor, and with his signature shaggy hair, bright blue eyes, and a big smile, he became a teen idol.

Balancing Career and School

For seven seasons, a total of 179 episodes, Jonathan worked hard at his career and education. He would be on set for nine hours daily and still complete his school work.

A portrait of Jonathan at the time.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

His movie career was taking off, but it was important for him also to remain focused on school. His education was just as important as his next role. He was still a young boy, so despite his rising successful career, he had to balance school and work.

His Biggest Movie Roles

As he worked hard to balance school and acting, he landed what was arguably his biggest role. In this role, he isn’t seen—only heard. In 1994, he was cast as the voice of Simba in Disney’s The Lion King.

A photo of Jonathan behind a microphone.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Walt Disney Pictures

He became the voice behind the iconic lion that touched many’s hearts. This was his big break. Ironically, though, he never actually made it on the big screen. Only his voice did. He will always be remembered as the voice of Simba.

Not His First Voiceover

This was not Jonathan’s first time as a voice actor. He had done voiceover work in previous films that were not as big. He was cast in the American adaptation of The Adventures of Spot in 1987.

A photo of Jonathan attending an event.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

The series was based on children’s books about a dog named Spot. He also had parts in the videos Toto Lost in New York, The Nome Prince, and the Magic Belt. He had a recurring role in The Wild Thornberrys, a cartoon series about an unusual family who travels the world.

Finally Appearing in Movies

Jonathan appeared in a few movies where he was featured instead of just his voice. His on-camera films include Tom and Huck, based on the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He starred in I’ll Be Home for Christmas, where he played the lead role.

A still of Jonathan in the film I'll Be Home for Christmas.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Walt Disney Pictures

He was also cast in Wild America, Walking across Egypt, Speedway Junky, and I Woke Up Early the Day I Died. He steadily grew his film acting portfolio far beyond voice acting. He was just as great on screen as he was behind a microphone.

The Final Season of Home Improvement

The eighth season of Home Improvement in 1998 would be the final season of this family sitcom. However, Jonathan did not return for the final season because he wanted to take time off from acting to finish school.

A still of Jonathan in an episode of Home Improvement.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

So the show’s plot changed, and his character, Randy Taylor, went on an environmental study program in Costa Rica. His last episode on the show was called “Adios,” and it aired in September 1998. That would mark the beginning of the end for Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

He Never Returned to Home Improvement

Although fans anxiously waited, Jonathan never returned for the Home Improvement season finale in 1999. By the early 2000s, he appeared in very few roles. He played Ian Randall in two episodes of Smallville. In 2004, he starred in three episodes of 8 Simple Rules. In 2005, he appeared in one episode of Veronica Mars.

A promotional portrait of the cast members.
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After that, it would be eight years before fans saw him again. He reunited with Tim Allen for a few episodes of his show Last Man Standing. He also directed three of the show’s episodes—”Haunted House,” “Hard-Ass Teacher,” and “Eve’s Band.”

Why Did He Quit Acting?

The simple truth behind why Jonathan Taylor Thomas quit acting was that he was over it. He was tired of Hollywood and acting, and he needed a break. He had been acting nonstop since he was eight years old. After he left Home Improvement and stopped acting, he became a student at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

A picture of Jonathan.
Photo by GT/Star Max/FilmMagic/Getty Images

He felt it was a very valuable experience to learn in a classroom and sit in a huge library surrounded by books and other students who are busy studying. He was a good actor, but he was also a brilliant student.

He Doesn’t Regret It

Jonathan doesn’t regret his decision to leave Hollywood and stop acting. When he left, he was focused on directing, scriptwriting, and just enjoying life and freedom without a camera.

A current photo of Jonathan with friends.
Source: Pinterest

He never took fame too seriously. It was just something that happened due to working on his passions. Jonathan says it was a wild ride, and he is eternally grateful for that period of his life, but he isn’t defined by it. He remembers and celebrates the good moments of fame.

He Never Liked the Entertainment Industry

From an early age, Jonathan was not a fan of the entertainment industry and distaste for it. Even at the pinnacle of his fame, he thought of a way out. He shared with Premiere magazine in 1996, “You can’t be trapped in this bubble called the acting industry.

A dated studio portrait of Jonathan.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

The industry is neurotic and weird, so when I go home, 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.” This was his reason for leaving.

Experiencing Burnout

Very early in his acting career, Jonathan felt like he was burning out. He had to juggle school, social life, memorizing his lines, and ensuring he delivered a great performance on screen. He felt so bogged down by his responsibilities that he suffered from stress-induced migraines.

A dated image of Jonathan during an event.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, In/Getty Images

He filmed many episodes with a full-blown headache and had to power through because he couldn’t stop. He had to keep acting because that was his job and his passion, but he also wanted to learn and be in school like a normal kid.

Not a Fan of Being Famous

He never really liked being famous. In an interview with the New York Times, he said, “It’s sometimes distracting to look over and see a whole group of girls staring and giggling.”

A dated portrait of Jonathan smiling at the camera.
Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images

This was in 1997 when he was filming Wild America, and a group of female fans found him and started fawning over him. He felt that being idolized by strangers was an uncomfortable idea he never really got used to. Strangely for Jonathan, part of the entertainment industry is fame and fans.

Feeling Overwhelmed by the Spotlight

Jonathan Taylor Thomas felt very overwhelmed by the spotlight. He knew that part of making movies and television shows was being famous and having fans, but he was still never comfortable with it. He wanted to act because it was his passion and he was great at it.

A photo of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Neve Campbell posing for the press.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

He also knew that his fans were extremely important. He told the New York Times, “You are a part of their life, and there is a lot that is owed them. But it’s difficult because you want to make everyone happy, but if you try to do that, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

He Felt Acting Would Come to an End

Jonathan felt that eventually, his acting career would come to an end. Many child actors are unprepared for the end and think it will last forever. For some people, it does, and for others, it doesn’t. Jonathan didn’t want to be left floundering.

A still of Tim Allen and Jonathan in an episode of Home Improvement.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

So he decided to focus on school, play sports, and learn the technical side of filming. He wanted to be ready for the next step when his career ended or when his next movie was finished because everything eventually came to a close, and he understood that.

Wanting to Pursue Other Things

There were so many things Jonathan was capable of doing, and he wanted the freedom to do them. He didn’t know if his acting career would have lasted forever. He also didn’t know if he was cutting it short by leaving Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but he had to take matters into his own hands.

A dated image of Jonathan attending an event.
Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage/Getty Images

He knew that acting could get him a lot of places in life. He also felt that there were many other things he could do later in life. He wanted the space to work on them all.

His Infamous Nickname

In his teenage years, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a grade-A heartthrob. Teenage girls loved him! Like Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Damon, he was another late ’90s teenage boy actor who fans couldn’t get enough of.

A portrait of Jonathan at the time.
Photo by Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images

Consequently, that stardom and obsession came with a nickname. People quickly started calling him JTT. His thoughts on the nickname? He hated it. The nickname never grew on him, and all he wanted was for it to stop. His name meant something to him, and he wanted people to refer to him by that name.

Leaving Was the Right Thing

When Jonathan Taylor Thomas left Home Improvement, he knew he was making the right decision. His costars were not thrilled with his exit. They were utterly shocked when he refused to return for the final season, but he knew he had made the right choice.

A still of Jonathan in an episode from season 8.
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In 1999 at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, he defended his decision. He told the press, “I made such a good decision because had I stayed at the show and tried to do academically what I’m doing now, I would’ve, you know, put myself in an early grave.”

Focusing on Other Passions

After stepping away from Hollywood and the big screen, Jonathan went to Harvard University and Columbia University, where he studied history and philosophy. He decided to spend a semester abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland at Harvard.

A portrait of Jonathan.
Source: Pinterest

Now he has returned to Los Angeles, where he currently lives. He wants to focus on directing and writing scripts. He also wants to enjoy his free time. He loves watching many movies, hiking, and staying up-to-date with current shows and plays at the theater.

An Instagram Archive Dedicated to JTT

There is an account on Instagram called JTT Archive, and it’s all about Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The account has more than 3,500 followers who are constantly posting old photos of the actor even though there isn’t much material to work with.

A dated photo of Jonathan in his early teens.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The posts feature photos from the calendar he created in the ’90s and archival photos and videos from old photo shoots and interviews. The Instagram captions read, “If JTT was your boyfriend” and “The Dos and Don’ts of Loving Jonathan.” The posts are also flooded with positive and heartfelt comments.

Teen Idols of the ’90s

Before he left, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was on a level of unfathomable teen idols. He was on par with big names such as Macaulay Culkin, Devon Sawa, Mary-Kate, and Ashley Olsen. He was up there with the best of them.

A photo of Jonathan posing for the press.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

These are huge names that are still around. After Jonathan started acting on Home Improvement in 1991, he quickly became the “it” young actor in Hollywood. He would have had an extensive and successful career ahead of him if he hadn’t left. He was the ’90s Timothée Chalamet.

Other Interests Than Acting

Like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the Olsen twins wanted to leave Hollywood and the spotlight to pursue other interests. They wanted to become fashion designers and start their fashion line, just like JTT wanted to study at Harvard. They were both very ambitious beyond Hollywood and were ready to pursue other things, so they cut their acting careers short.

A still of Jonathan in a television series.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

The Olsen twins and Jonathan stopped acting around the same age after appearing on television shows and movies. They all had the chance to be household names in the acting world, but they had other dreams to pursue.

Unlike Marry-Kate and Ashley

In 2005, Jonathan officially chose to leave the entertainment industry behind. After he left, he would go back to leading a mostly normal life. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were famous during that time and wanted to leave the industry.

A portrait of Jonathan sitting on a couch.
Source: Pinterest

They were child actors who wanted to leave the limelight but never could. They weren’t able to ever live a normal life. They were always being watched or followed by paparazzi or fans. Jonathan was able to leave seamlessly, transition to normal life, attend college, and play sports. They were not so lucky.

He Doesn’t Have Social Media

This might come as a shock, but Jonathan Taylor Thomas is one of the few people on this planet who doesn’t have any social media. He is a rare 30-somethings who doesn’t use Instagram or Twitter.

A still of Jonathan in Last Standing Man.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: 20th Television

He never documents anything about his life on a public platform. He doesn’t post pictures of his avocado toast or iced vanilla latte on Instagram stories. He doesn’t shout his opinion on Twitter. He went from stardom to radio silence. He might have left, but his fans never did, and quite a few of them are still dedicated to him.

What Is He Doing Now?

In 2017, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was elected to the national board of SAG-AFTRA. This organization leads the SAG-AFTRA labor union and represents more than 160,000 entertainment workers in almost all screen-related workforces.

A dated video still of Jonathan during an interview.
Source: YouTube

They represent artists, actors, dancers, musicians, and more. It is a collaboration between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). These two organizations constantly fight for the rights and wages of their members, improving working conditions in entertainment. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was elected to the board after a long and dedicated campaign.

Announcing His Run for Board Member

Jonathan had a long-running campaign for a spot on the national board of SAG-AFTRA, and he won. His former television mom and costar from Home Improvement, Patricia Richardson, shared on Facebook that Jonathan would be running.

A still of Jonathan in a television series.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

In July 2017, she took to her Facebook with a post that read, “Guess who is running with us on the Membership First Slate for the SAG-AFTRA National Board and Los Angeles Local Board! Only, of course, all grown up now!” This was the first public mention of his campaign. Thanks, Mom.

The Facebook Post That Changed It All

Patricia Richardson took to social media to announce her former television son’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA and plastered it all over Facebook. It helped him win. She was already a national board member and was elected as First Vice President of the Los Angeles Local Board.

A portrait of Patricia Richardson.
Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

She supported Jonathan’s candidacy, and her post proved it. Surely this excitement and her involvement in the organization helped his campaign. He was running for both the LA Local Board and the National Board.

The Final Vote

Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ long and dedicated campaign finally ended, and it came time to vote. There are only 45 people on the Los Angeles Local Board.

A movie still of Jonathan.
Source: YouTube

He got 4,196 votes and secured a spot on the LA Local Board for a two-year term. He got 3,611 votes and secured a two-year term on the Nation Board. He sat alongside actors such as Martin Sheen, Regina King, and Matthew Modine. There are 15 members on the National Board.

Photographed for the First Time

Jonathan Taylor Thomas has been out of the spotlight for decades. He has lived a normal life completely out of the public eye. He was recently photographed, and the photos went viral. He is seen walking his two little white dogs on the streets of Los Angeles.

A dated portrait of Jonathan.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

This was the first time he had been photographed in eight years. He was wearing a hoodie, glasses, a mask, and a baseball cap, and somehow, he was spotted. He walked his dog, talked on his phone, and smoked a vape.

The Long-Awaited Fan Reactions

Being out of the spotlight for eight years is a long time. People changed and grew old during that period, but the fans forgot that. Some fans couldn’t believe it was him. They said his nose wasn’t right, so that it couldn’t be him.

A dated image of Jonathan posing for the press.
Photo by SGranitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Some fans thought he aged well. Regardless of the consensus, JTT is happy and healthy, walking his white dogs around Los Angeles and minding his business. The ’90s teen heartthrob had his moment in the spotlight and spent many years away from it. Who knows what he’ll do next?

Who Is Zachary Ty Bryan?

Zachary Ty Bryan is an American actor and film producer. He is known for his role as Brad Taylor on the ABC sitcom Home Improvement, where he acted alongside Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

A portrait of Zachary Ty Bryan.
Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

He played the role of Tim Allen’s oldest son. On the show, he was charming and charismatic. He has also appeared in films such as True Heart and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. He was born in Aurora, Colorado. During his time on Home Improvement, he also appeared in the role of Steve in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1995.

How He Started Acting

Before being cast in Home Improvement, Zachary Ty Bryan appeared in local print and television advertisements in Denver. This caught the attention of director Peter Sklar, who cast Bryan in his New York City showcase. This offered exposure and a professional talent representative scouted him.

A still of Zachery Ty Bryan, Taran Noah Smith, and Jonathan in an episode of Home Improvement.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

To further his career, he moved to California, where he was cast in his infamous role as the oldest Taylor child. His character often experimented with different hairstyles, and he was considered a troublemaker. His role on the show helped start his acting career.

His Roles in Film

Bryan acted in many movies throughout his long career. In 1996, he was cast as the school bully in the comedy First Kid. The year before, he starred as Jack Carlisle in a movie called Magic Island.

A still of Kirsten Dunst and Zachery in a scene from the film True Heart.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Orion Pictures

In 1999, he played the role of Eric in The Rage: Carrie 2 and defender Harry Keough in The Game of Their Lives alongside Gerard Butler. In 2006, he played Clay, a villain, in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. In 2022, he was cast in The Guardians of Justice, which aired on Netflix.

Divorcing His High School Sweetheart

Zachary Ty Bryan married his high school sweetheart Carly Matros. They both attended La Cañada High School together. They got married in 2007. He is the father of twin girls who were born in 2014.

A photo of Zachery and Carly attending an event.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Their names are Taylor Simone Bryan and Gemma Rae Bryan. He has another daughter, Jordana Nicole Bryan, born in 2016. In 2019, he announced the birth of his son, Peirce Alexander Bryan. In October 2020, Zachary and Carly called it quits and ended after 14 years of marriage and four children.

Legal Trouble for the Actor

Zachary Ty Bryan was arrested on several legal charges in October 2020. He was charged with felony strangulation, misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree assault, and interfering with making a police report. He argued with his girlfriend in their apartment in Lane County, Oregon, and got extremely violent, which resulted in his arrest.

A mugshot of Zachery.
Photo by Lane County Jail/Getty Images

In February 2021, he pleaded guilty to two charges, and six others were dismissed. He was sentenced to three years and had to take a batterer intervention program. He could have no contact with the victim.

Who Is Taran Noah Smith?

Taran Noah Smith was born in 1984. He is a former actor who was most well-known for his role as Mark Taylor in the sitcom Home Improvement, where he acted alongside Zachary Ty Bryan and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

A photo of Taran Noah Smith attending an event.
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

He started acting in the show when he was seven years old. He played the youngest of the Taylor children. He is often portrayed as the dork of the family and was tormented by his older brothers. Throughout the first few seasons, he is constantly being pranked and laughed at by Brad and Randy.

A Massive Trust Fund

When Taran Noah Smith was 18, he gained access to his $1.5 million trust fund. He had accused his parents of wasting it on their mansion. His mother, Candy Bennici, said she never touched her son’s money and couldn’t have it, even if she wanted to.

A still of Taran Noah Smith in an episode of Home Improvement.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

Taran claimed his parents tried to take his trust fund at 17 since they knew he would have full access to it once he turned 18. Luckily, the courts did not grant them access to his trust fund, and Taran got to keep the money he had worked hard for as a kid.

Figuring Out Who He Is

Smith started acting on Home Improvement when he was seven, and the show ended when he was 16. He never really had the chance to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He knew he no longer wanted to act once the show was over.

A promotional portrait of Smith for the show.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Buena Vista Television

When he was 17, he married Heidi van Pelt on April 27, 2001. The marriage sparked a lot of controversies because van Pelt was 16 years older than Smith. He was 17, and she was 31. Now that’s an age gap!

The Start of a Controversial Marriage

Many people felt Taran and Heidi’s marriage was wrong and that she was taking advantage of him. Smith, his friend, and costar Zachary Ty Bryan often visited Heidi’s house.

A dated photo of Smith and Heidi posing for the press.
Photo by John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Taran and Heidi got to know each other and developed a relationship. This relationship eventually led to marriage despite the media backlash and their personal lives. The marriage lasted six years, and they filed for divorce in 2007, but they say it wasn’t due to the social disapproval.

From Set to Non-Dairy Cheese Farm

In 2005, Taran Noah Smith and Heidi van Pelt opened a California-based, non-dairy cheese manufacturer and restaurant. It was called Playfood, and it specialized in vegan and organic foods. Heidi had been trained professionally as a chef, and she was a vegan herself. Taran is also a vegan.

A picture of Heidi and Taran during an event.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Today, Taran Noah Smith volunteers with disaster relief. He is also a technical manager for the Community Submersibles Project. He teaches people how to pilot submarines. His career went far from acting, leading a life filled with volunteer work.