Jonathan taylor thomas 2018

What Happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas?

Twenty-five years after Nala and Simba inspired many an unexpected sexual awakening, a new version of The Lion King arrives in theaters this week. Tragically, it does not feature a cameo by the original voice of Young Simba: the man, the myth, the M.I.A. legend that is Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

A floppy-haired moppet of a child actor with a chain-smoker’s rasp, JTT reached a stratospheric level of teen idoldom usually reserved for pop stars and boy bands. When painstakingly arranged compositions of Bop and Tiger Beat’s finest centerfolds papered tween bedrooms across the nation, his face commandeered the lion’s share of 90s real estate. (The average makeup, based purely on my own experience, was 80 percent Thomas, 20 percent Devon Sawa and a gratuitous rotating corner for Andrew Keegan or the kid from Free Willy.)

And then–in his late teens, right around the time of Y2K—he quit Home Improvement, did a couple of indie films, and vanished completely.

Now 37, he hasn’t walked a red carpet in 15 years, and has made only a few on-screen appearances. He didn’t run from a massive scandal or have a public breakdown, so why did the world’s foremost teen idol disappear?

Let’s take it from the top

Jonathan Taylor Thomas was born Jonathan Taylor Weiss in the not-so-little town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on September 8, 1981, and raised in Sacramento, California. After his parents split, he moved with his brother Joel and mom/manager to Los Angeles, where he finally broke into Hollywood at the ripe age of eight and adopted his brother’s middle name as his new last name.

As Thomas began to book modelling gigs and commercials, it became clear to everyone that this was a septuagenarian trapped in the body of a photogenic child star. A devout vegetarian, he was a self-described catch-and-release “fly-fishing nut” who, according to an Angelfire fan page, once caught an 80-pound halibut. He was small for his age and talked like a cool but world-weary philosopher patiently waiting for everyone to get on his level. Which, apparently, was exactly what casting agents adored.

The tiny talent landed his first big role in 1989 playing Greg Brady’s son on a Brady Bunch spin-off series. Three episodes of In Living Color followed—including one disturbing “Home Alone Again” sketch in which he played Macaulay Culkin fending off an intruding Michael Jackson—before he scored his career-making gig as Randy Taylor on Home Improvement in 1991.

And here is where our story really begins.

JTT attending a convention in 1994. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

A meteoric and migraine-filled rise

Home Improvement was an instant hit for ABC, and by 12, Thomas was the biggest tween star in America—and already suffering from burnout.

“You have school, friends, learning your lines and making sure your performance is up to speed,” he told People in 1994. “I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve done with full-blown migraine headaches.”

In addition to charming the nation as Tim Allen’s wise-cracking middle son, he was also churning out family-friendly films on the side: The Lion King, 1995’s Man of the House and Tom and Huck, The Adventures of Pinocchio in 1996, Wild America (a.k.a. Heartthrobs in Nature) in 1997 and I’ll Be Home For Christmas with Jessica Biel and Robbie from 7th Heaven in 1998.

But Premiere magazine noted that while Hollywood wanted Thomas to be “the next Macaulay Culkin,” he’d prefer to join the DGA and be “the next Ron Howard.”

“How serious do you take this stuff? I mean, you should be focused on doing a good job, but… every job has an end,” Thomas told the outlet when he was just 14. “I think most weren’t prepared for the end. I mean, it’s not the end of your life! You can’t base your life around one thing.”

OMG! It’s JTT!

In retrospect, the writing was on the wall from Day One. He loved acting, but he hated the magazine covers. Hated the attention on his personal life. And he definitely hated being called JTT.

“I’m over that. I’ve always been over that,” he politely told Conan O’Brien of his three-initial moniker in 1998.

In fact, looking back at old clips of him being alternately talked down to or fawned over by talk show hosts is painful. Somehow, Thomas spent years graciously answering a stream of inane questions like, “When’s the last time Tim Allen took you out for lunch?” (David Letterman) and “Isn’t Jonathan’s hair the most beautiful color you’ve ever seen?” (Kathie Lee Gifford).

At a time when straightness was an assumed trait of the Teen Beat set, Thomas was never in a public relationship (though he reportedly dated Dr. Quinn’s Jessica Bowman) and deftly dodged any questions about his dating life. He also faced unfettered media probing into his sexuality that would be unheard of for a celebrity, let alone teen star, today.

“Pretty much in Hollywood you’re not anyone until it’s rumored that you’re gay, so I wasn’t that upset about it,” a 17-year-old Thomas said when Jay Leno asked if the speculation drove him “nuts” in 1998. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but they’re rumors and you should always be kind of careful with that internet stuff.”

Leno then proceeded to directly ask him if he’s gay.

“No, no, no, no, I’m not. I’m not,” Thomas replied, laughing.

Leno hospitably added, “If you want to come out, it’s fine.”

Two years later, Thomas negated the rumors again in a cover story for The Advocate tied to his roles as a persecuted gay teen in Showtime’s Common Ground and a bisexual hustler in indie flick Speedway Junky.

Those slightly edgier parts were the extent of his rebellion against his squeaky clean image. He never emancipated himself from his parents or went on an underage bender at the Viper Room. He even reportedly turned down Jason Biggs’ part in American Pie.

With Devon Sawa, Scott Bairstow, and Frances Fisher at the Wild America premiere in 1997. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Instead, Thomas represented a wholesome, parent-approved version of the 90s and, by all accounts, that’s who he was: a well-spoken introvert ( People once labeled him a “Smart Throb”) who didn’t like the Hollywood scene and struggled with the implications of his fame. For a solid decade, he couldn’t go anywhere without an army of teen girls hanging on his oversized sweater du jour. They found him on the backwoods Canada set of Wild America and mid-candle lighting inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

”You are a part of their life, and there is a lot that is owed them,” he told the New York Times of his rabid fandom in 1997. ”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.”

Taylor vs. Taylor

The most controversial thing Thomas ever did was snub the Home Improvement series finale.

Two years after his Emmy-deserving cancer scare episode, he chose to leave the sitcom at the start of its eighth and final season. As Randy Taylor jetted off to Costa Rica on an environmental study, Thomas happily returned to his private Los Angeles high school.

At the time, he said he didn’t appear on the May 1999 finale because he was “back east” looking at prospective colleges and “the whole timing thing didn’t work out.” But reports swirled of an outraged Tim Allen and a disappointed cast.

“He said it was about going to school, but then he did some films. Did he want to do films? Did he want to go to school?” Allen told TV Guide. “…I mentioned that I was confused. I don’t think he liked that.”

Richard Karn, who played Al Borland, expressed concern over Thomas’ autonomy in the decision.

“Jonathan’s life at that point wasn’t necessarily all his own life,” Karn said in 2016. “His mom was also deciding what he should or shouldn’t do. That comes down to a particular parental guidance idea that she had. I think Jonathan really would have rather done the episode.”

Mother knows best?

Thomas and his mother, Claudine Gonsalves, were undoubtedly close. Nearly every talk show appearance of his included an anecdote involving her, she answered his fan mail, and filmmakers often recalled her constant presence on set. Still, the extent of her control over her son is unclear.

Message boards and comment sections are filled with fans convinced Gonsalves is the real reason he fled the spotlight. Unsubstantiated claims of her being fiercely protective, controlling and foisting an unhealthy codependency on her son abound. But Premiere observed in 1994 that he was “watched over by a mother seemingly more intent on the development of his brain and heart than his bank account,” and the New York Times made a point to note in 1997 that “Mr. Thomas has worked steadily in high-profile projects with the support, but not the interference, of his family.”

The Lion King’s co-director Roger Allers recalled how he drew on their bond to get enough emotion out of Thomas to react to Mufasa’s death.

“Since his mother was always there, and I knew they must be close,” Allers told Premiere. “I used her as an example: ‘Think of how this would feel: You’ve just seen your mother fall into a river and now you’ve found her washed up.’” And although Simba’s first line in the scene is a heartbreaking “Dad!,” Allers said, “‘Let’s go,’ dimmed the lights… and Jonathan said, ‘Mom!’”

Whatever the case, Thomas never expressed any regret over bowing out of Home Improvement early.

On the set of Home Improvement in 1998. Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

“Had I stayed at the show and tried to do academically what I’m doing now,” he told the press after his 1999 Kids’ Choice Award win, “I would have put myself in an early grave.”

Hitting the Ivy League

The aughts were a time of change and discovery for our young hero. In 2000, a 19-year-old Thomas enrolled at Harvard University, where he spent two years studying philosophy and history. He also studied abroad at St. Andrews in Scotland, which the local paper warned put fellow student Prince William’s “undisputed heart-throb” status at risk.

Thomas left Harvard in 2002, but eventually returned to academia and graduated (as Jonathan Weiss) from Columbia University’s School of General Studies in 2010. “JTT is actually a pretty smart guy, and a good writer,” read a rave review from one purported CU classmate.

Despite Kathie Lee Gifford’s love of his sandy blonde (dyed) hair, College Jon went brunette and made time for guest roles on Ally McBeal, Smallville, 8 Simple Rules, and Veronica Mars through the first half of the decade. He also worked steadily as a voice actor for several animated TV films and The Wild Thornberrys.

Rumors and sightings

For a wildly famous star who spent time on three different campuses, remarkably little leaked of his collegiate affairs. But reports of Thomas’ general activities over the last 20 years range from the sweet and mundane to the oh-please-god-don’t-let-it-be-true.

TMZ caught him exactly once: exiting Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas, where he looked well preserved in tortoiseshell glasses, patiently signing photos and indulging random questions about Simba in 2013.

Redditors claim he used to be a regular at a few LA area dive bars where he always “seemed a little bit sad and distant,” and on one Karaoke Tuesday at Los Feliz pub Ye Rustic Inn, “someone sang lion king and he left.”

Since around 2010, Twitter users have also periodically reported sightings of Thomas in Vancouver, indicating he may be at least a part-time resident there, where he enjoys shopping, drinking coffee in a hat and sunglasses, and looking “kind of like a mountain man.”

Now, for the troubling: Several sites allege that he voiced a fetus(!) in an anti-abortion ad. If he did, the video and concrete details surrounding it are virtually nowhere to be found online. Although Tim Allen is a noted conservative, JTT has never publicly spoken about his political or religious leanings, and a rep for Thomas did not respond to my request for confirmation.

A timid resurgence

Around the time of his 30th birthday, Thomas began slowly venturing back to his roots.

In 2011, he consented to a Home Improvement reunion photoshoot for Entertainment Weekly, which marked the first time the rest of the cast had seen him since his departure from the series in 1998.

Any hard feelings were seemingly resolved, and soon after he joined Tim Allen on the set of his sitcom Last Man Standing, guest starring in four episodes and directing another three, most recently in 2016.

“He’s just been on the set all the time,” Allen said in 2013. “But he’s so shy… This is a kid that’s really intelligent. He likes directing, he loves this business, but he’s not sure that this is what he wants to do.”

On the set of Last Man Standing in 2013. Photo by Craig Sjodin/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

JTT is dead. Long live Jonathan Taylor Thomas!

For now, Thomas is quietly doing Hollywood his way.

In 2017, he was elected by his peers to the SAG-AFTRA National Board. His Home Improvement brother Zachary Ty Bryan says they’re working on a project together with Macaulay Culkin, possibly an R-rated pilot of sorts. And it seems highly likely Thomas will continue down the path of directing and finally get that DGA card he’s dreamed of for so long.

“I’d been going nonstop since I was eight years old,” he told People in 2013. “I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”

He really hated the magazine covers.

If you were a product of the 90’s, odds are you had a poster of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, AKA JTT, hanging on your wall.

JTT quickly became a heartthrob thanks to his role as middle brother Randy on the hit show ‘Home Improvement’.

And we couldn’t help but get excited when we heard whispers this week there’s a chance the TV show – which ran for eight seasons – could be getting a reboot!

Tim Allen recently revealed some of the ‘Home Improvement’ team had gotten together to discuss a potential on-screen reunion.

Speaking to ET, Tim revealed the majority of the team said: “Yeah, that would be cool to do it years later, like ‘Roseanne’. I like that idea.”

But while we wait for more news, let’s find out what JTT’s been up to since Home Improvement ended in 1998…

Well, one thing’s for sure, the 36-year-old is still just as good looking as he was in the 90’s…

JTT was part of countless projects throughout the 90’s. Many remember him for his work in ‘Home Improvement’ and as the voice of Simba in ‘The Lion King’.

But he decided to leave Hollywood at the height of his career.

“I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” the actor said. “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.”

In his decade away from the limelight, he attended Harvard, Columbia and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, and relished his time as a student.

“To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool,” says Thomas. “It was a novel experience for me.”

After graduating from Columbia University, the ‘Man of the House’ star returned to Los Angeles to focus on directing and writing scripts and went on to make guest appearances in ‘8 Simple Rules,’ ‘The Wild Thornberrys,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Smallville,’ ‘Veronica Mars,’ and Tim Allen’s ‘Last Man Standing.’

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After a long hiatus from Hollywood, former child sensation Jonathan Taylor Thomas has re-entered the spotlight.

The actor, now 37, known for voicing Young Simba in “The Lion King” in 1994, to his breakout television performance as Randy Taylor on “Home Improvement” for seven years, has backed away from the public eye in recent times, but has just thrown his hat in the ring for a position on the SAG-AFTRA national board.


Jonathan Taylor Thomas quit his role on ‘Home Improvement’ to dedicate himself to his studies full time. (Getty Images)

The SAG-AFTRA, a labor union that represents nearly 160,000 workers from the entertainment industry, was formed following the merger of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Thomas, along with fellow stars Ed Asner and Elliott Gould, are seeking potential board seats as part of actor Matthew Modine’s presidential campaign at the union.

“I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me.”

— Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Thomas was a media darling throughout the 1990s, when after starting out as a young model and acting in several commercials he hit it big with “The Lion King.” His most well-known stint on “Home Improvement” – from 1991 to 1998 – ended during the show’s final season, when he departed the show to focus on his academic career. He studied in Harvard, Columbia and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.


“To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool,” Thomas told People in 2013. “It was a novel experience for me.”

He later reflected on his time in the spotlight, adding that his fame no longer represents him as a person.

“I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” he told the outlet. “I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”

Since stepping away from acting, Thomas has made minor returns here and there, most notably reuniting with his on-screen dad Tim Allen for cameos and three directing credits in his new show, “Last Man Standing.”

Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.

It was the hair, really.

Don’t get me wrong — Jonathan Taylor Thomas was cute. But cute looks and a winning grin aren’t enough to earn you pride of place, courtesy of Dolly magazine cut-out-and-keep posters. All truly good teen idols have something extra, that je ne sais quoi that causes adolescent girls to swoon.

For Jonathan Taylor Thomas, it was the hair.

Because the hair was good: honey-coloured and golden, just the right amount of floppy and cut in two massive bunches on either side of his preternaturally cute head, like a miniature Leonardo DiCaprio.


The hair stole the show on Home Improvement; the hair was irrepressibly cheeky in Man of the House; the hair that wasn’t visible, though whose cuteness was nevertheless implied, in his voice performance in The Lion King. The hair was the thing!

But when your hair is so much a part of your visual identity, it’s hard to grow up and, eventually, out of it.

JTT (as he was known) did exactly that, cutting those floppy tufts back into a frosted crop that, as he got older, faded into a darker brown than the golden locks he was so known for.

The last time the actor was seen on-screen, in a guest appearance on Home Improvement co-star Tim Allen’s sitcom Last Man Standing, the hair was chocolate brown and pouffed back. (This, I barely need to add, is not teen idol cut-out-and-keep poster hair.)

Since then, Thomas has not appeared on a single television or film screen.

We need to ask ourselves: what happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ hair? Because the answer to that question will also reveal what happened to the star himself.


Thomas’ rise to child star fame is remarkably similar to many of his peers. Born Jonathan Taylor Weiss (the Thomas was his brother’s name, borrowed as a stage name), he was raised by a single mother after his parents split. She moved the family to Los Angeles when Thomas was just a kid.

Hollywood came knocking early. Thomas was cast first in The Adventures of Spot and In Living Colour, in which he played his fellow child star Macaulay Culkin in a sketch, before landing the nine-year gig that would catapult him to fame: Home Improvement.


When the aliens escape Area 51 (as they are apparently threatening to do) and look for a microcosm of each decade, someone will hand them Home Improvement to represent the ’90s. The sitcom, starring Allen as a regular, tool-loving dad in downtown Detroit, was based off Allen’s stand-up comedy and became one of the most popular television series of the decade. It launched the careers of Allen, Pamela Anderson (who starred as Allen’s sexy assistant Lisa) and, of course, Thomas.

The actor was just nine when he was cast in the role that would come to dominate his (and almost every adolescent on the planet’s) teen years. After that, he became instantly recognisable in a way child stars often are, so much so he was cast to voice young Simba in the 1996 Disney cartoon The Lion King.

The role was a large one, expected to shoulder the enormous emotional burden of the film as — spoiler alert, but you’ve seen The Lion King, right? — young Simba has to witness the death of his father Mufasa and be told (erroneously) by his treasured uncle Scar it was all his fault. Producers fell in love with Thomas’ emotive voice as soon as they heard it. As soon as he was cast, Thomas was under strict instructions to protect his voice by refraining from shouting and drinking lots of hot lemon with honey. This routine — protecting the voice, flying from Los Angeles to Florida and back again for voice recordings — would go on for two years before the film was finished and premiered in 1996.

When Jonathan Taylor Thomas made a guest appearance in Last Man Standing, fans were shocked his boyish golden locks had turned a dark shade of brown. Photo / Supplied

After The Lion King was over, Thomas returned to Home Improvement, as he did every year until 1998. On Home Improvement, Thomas starred as middle child Randy, a natural comic and actor who was the perfect foil to both of his parents on the show. He would go on to feature in every season until the eighth and final one, when Randy vacated the family house for a study-abroad program in Costa Rica. His last episode was the Christmas special, and Thomas did not return for the television show’s final episode in May 1999.


The reason for Thomas’ absence was the curse that plagues almost every child actor: he needed a break.

Some child actors deal with the endless parade of attention and spectacle of their youth with addiction and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. Thomas just wanted some time away from the spotlight.

Because he really was in the spotlight. In 1994, his mother Claudine told PEOPLE Thomas received so many fan letters she couldn’t answer them all personally, and she was thinking of hiring an employee to assist her.

He worked almost 10-hour days on the set of Home Improvement and then spent his summer vacations on movie projects, like Man of the House. “You have school, friends, learning your lines and making sure your performance is up to speed,” Thomas told PEOPLE in 1994. “I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve done with full-blown migraine headaches.”

In interviews, Thomas often tried to reckon with the meaning of his fame. “I get swamped with fan letters, and I do read them,” he said. “I appreciate each and every letter. I feel bad that kids take the time and effort to write stuff that comes from deep down in their hearts. It’s real important stuff. I’d love to sit down and write a two-page letter to each one, and if I had the time, believe me, I would.”

Instead, Thomas would give his fans time in person. As his fan site TotallyJTT delightfully recalled, Thomas would travel all across America for autograph sessions, and he never left before every single fan had their time with him. JTT’s motto? “I never want to disappoint anyone.”

Add to that the great hordes of girls following Thomas around Los Angeles, hoping for a glimpse of him in the wild, and no wonder he felt overwhelmed enough to quit Hollywood. (Yes, girls did this. There’s a whole section about how to meet Thomas and, crucially, what to say to him if you do on, a website I have now spent too much time on.

“Just remember, treat Jonathan just like any other friend, because that’s just what he wants to be, your friend,” they advised super fans.)

Later, Thomas summed up his desire for distance from Hollywod, saying: “I’d been going non-stop since I was eight years old,” he told PEOPLE in 2013. “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.”

That’s exactly what Thomas did. He enrolled first at Harvard before travelling to St Andrews University in Scotland, where he was a contemporary of Prince William and Kate Middleton. (“Prince William may have won over a legion of female fans, but his status as the teenagers’ undisputed heart-throb at St Andrews University is now under threat,”The Scotman reported at the time.)

Thomas loved being a student. “To sit in a big library among books and students, that was pretty cool. It was a novel experience for me,” he told PEOPLE.

Remember, that for eight years while working on Home Improvement, Thomas had to juggle regular school hours with being on the ABC backlot and ready to film his scenes as Randy. According to his own estimate, he only made it to his Los Angeles Public School “one week out of every four”. Not to mention that for the first two seasons of the hit show, Thomas and his two on-screen siblings were told to spend their recreation time playing in the unused — and unsafe — parts of the set and sit in directors’ chairs that were chained together at all times. (The conditions got so bad that at one point all three boys went on strike, refusing to turn up for work until they were given a safe and professional working environment.)

It’s no surprise, then, Thomas embraced the anonymity and normality of walking around a college campus. In 2013, he told PEOPLE the break was exactly what he needed.

“I never took the fame too seriously,” he said. “It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”


With university over, Thomas returned to Hollywood in a small way, with voice roles in The Wild Thornberries and guest parts in Ally McBeal, Smallville and Veronica Mars. There were a few movies, like Walking Across Egypt and Speedway Racer. But for the most part, before Thomas’ return to television in Last Man Standing alongside his Home Improvement co-star Allen, he was absent from screens.

So, what was he doing? Partly, he was living a normal life. He was living in Los Angeles, going hiking, eating vegetarian food, watching movies and going to the theatre. Occasionally, a fan would spot him at the mall or buying groceries and would blast it on Twitter. But, mostly, Thomas retreated from the public eye. He didn’t appear on red carpets. He shied away from press events.

He was only lured back onto television by Allen, who had a part for a character on his mid-noughties sitcom Last Man Standing he thought Thomas would be perfect for. It was also an opportunity for Thomas to try his hand at a true passion of his: directing.

“The character expanded more and more as he got on set,” Allen told Yahooin 2013. “He got into it, but again, this is a kid that’s really intelligent. He likes directing, he loves this business, but he’s not sure that this is what he wants to do. We certainly would like him to come back (on camera) because he does a great job. He’s fighting it, but everybody loved him.”

Thomas went on to direct three episodes of Last Man Standing, including one in 2016.

Since then, he hasn’t directed anything new, though he was inducted onto the SAG-AFTRA board in 2017.

But back in 2011, Thomas admitted to Entertainment Weekly being out of the spotlight and behind the camera was his true ambition. “I think at this point, I’d eventually like to work behind the camera,” he said. “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 (and) could see myself working in it.”

Today, Thomas is 37 years old. He has no social media accounts, or no public ones at least. No one quite knows which city he lives in. As a teenager, he once admitted reading “the out-of-state real estate ads” for fun. “I eventually want to move out of LA. I wouldn’t mind going back to the East Coast. I’m from Pennsylvania. But I don’t know if I could take the winters.”

The last time he was on-screen was in 2013. The last time he was spotted by paparazzi was in Los Angeles in August of that same year. (The hair was chocolate brown.)

The last time he was on a red carpet was in 2003. Thomas has all but disappeared from public life.

But the teens of the ’90s remember him. “Remember all the girls, how they loved him?” Allen wondered aloud to Yahoo in 2013. “A couple of them (from Last Man Standing) said they had posters of him on the wall of their bedrooms.”

“It was so funny,” Allen continued. “Because they go, ‘Is he here?’ I go, ‘Yeah, he’s standing right behind you’.”

This article was first published on

In recent years, former child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas (or simply JTT) has disappeared from the spotlight and public eye but that’s about to change…

Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a Hollywood sensation as he rose to fame in the 90’s. Most famous for voicing the role of young Simba in Disney’s original The Lion King & his breakout role on Home Improvement with Tim Allen.

Thomas, 37, has taken a noticeable hiatus from the glitz, glam and shining lights of Hollywood and in recent years, the former child star has disappeared from the public eye too.

JTT, as the young teens of today would scream if he made his debut in the naughties, has just put himself out there for a position on the SAG-AFTRA national board – a labour union that represents nearly 160,000 workers from the entertainment industry.

Taking on a more behind the scenes approach, this is not JTT’s first BTS rodeo. Thomas has enjoyed sporadic directing gigs in his new show, Last Man Standing and genuinely enjoys staying out of the spotlight.

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Post Home Improvement, Thomas focused on his academic career, studying at Harvard, Columbia and St Andrew’s University in Scotland.

“I’d been going non-stop since I was eight years old. I never took the fame too seriously. It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers” he told People in 2013.

Great to see this 90’s teen heartthrob back in the biz and doing what he loves best!

  • After getting a sneak peek at The Lion King live-action remake—which hits theaters on July 19—we couldn’t help but reminisce about the original animated version.
  • The 1994 film starred Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the voice of Simba. It occurred to us that we had no idea what JTT is up to now—so we did some digging. (Spoiler alert: he left Hollywood.)

It’s been awhile since we dusted off our issues of Tiger Beat and thought back to the heartthrobs of yore, but the live-action The Lion King remake has made us nostalgic for all things 90s. While the cast in the new version is apparently a treasure to behold, all the buzz around the live-action remake got us thinking: whatever happened to actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who originally voiced the younger Simba before starring in Home Improvement…and then ultimately, disappeared?

With the exception of some bit roles and voiceovers, it seems the now 37-year-old actor left Hollywood shortly after wrapping Home Improvement in 1998. And in 2013, he told People he has no regrets about leaving the industry. “I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” he said. “I wanted to go to school, to travel, and have a bit of a break.”

And go to school, he did. He attended Harvard, where he studied history and philosophy, and later Columbia and St. Andrew’s University in Scotland (fun fact: also where Prince William and Duchess Kate met).

Getty Images

Taylor Thomas has had four guest spots on Tim Allen’s FOX sitcom Last Man Standing (apparently, it’s hard to resist your former TV dad!), and he directed an episode in 2016. But aside from that, he’s mostly remained out of the spotlight. In fact, according to his IMDB page, he hasn’t dabbled in TV or film since 2016.

JTT on a season two episode of Last Man Standing. Getty Images

“I never took the fame too seriously,” he told People. “It was a great period in my life, but it doesn’t define me. When I think back on the time, I look at it with a wink. I focus on the good moments I had, not that I was on a lot of magazine covers.”

Welp, JTT, we’ll always have those issues of Tiger Beat—and The Lion King soundtrack, of course.

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If you’re like me, you grew up with posters of JTT plastered all over your wall and the VCR constantly recording episodes of ‘Home Improvement’ so you could watch it 24/7. So, um, where did he go?

Jonathan Taylor Thomas, 36, is missing. Not really, of course (or at least I hope), but he’s definitely missing in action. His last known public appearance was on August 14, 2013 in Los Angeles, California, according to multiple photo agencies. His last television appearance was in 2015 on an episode of Tim Allen‘s Last Man Standing, where he cameo’d as his Home Improvement character, Randy. Before that he appeared on the show on-and-off as John Baker, but no more than three or four times at best. I even reached out to his rep in September 2017 to do a “catch up” piece and find out what he’s been up to, but was told he “respectfully” passed. But did he? I mean, how do I even know he’s real anymore?

It’s no secret that Jonathan decided to take a break from Hollywood after being one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, child stars of the 90’s. In 2013 he opened up about the break, telling PEOPLE that he wanted to “go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.” During that time he got exactly what he wanted while attending Harvard University, Columbia University, and even St. Andrew’s in Scotland. But in the same interview he admitted that he was slowly finding his way back into Hollywood with high hopes of directing, producing and creating content for the masses. In 2016 his former TV mom, Patricia Richardson, even revealed that JTT and his on-screen brother, Zachary Ty Bryan, were shopping around an R-rated pilot. However, his IMDb remains bare — which seems crazy because there are millions of crazy people like me who would watch him do anything. Like, literally anything. Like, you wanna make a film about paint drying? I’ll watch it. You want to star in a film in which your character just watches paint dry? I’ll watch it.

As if all of this wasn’t stressful enough for my inner 11-year-old who desperately misses her celebrity crush, he’s also not on social media. Jonathan isn’t on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Pinterest, as far as I know. I distinctly remember the internet getting duped when someone, somehow managed to create a verified Twitter account claiming to be the one and only JTT a few years back. I also remember the utter devastation that waved through me when the account got deactivated and the internet had to admit it had been trolled. Dear whoever that person was: I still hate you.

There are also a lot of looming personal questions to be answered. Is he married? Does he have kids? Is he living off of Home Improvement residuals or is he doing something else with that extremely expensive college education of his? How often does he talk to Tim Allen? Are they Snapchat friends? Does Tim Allen know what Snapchat is? Oh, and when’s the last time JTT talked to Devon Sawa? That last one is important because Wild America forever, guys.

Now that the holidays are here all I want to do is drink hot cocoa and watch I’ll Be Home For Christmas over and over again. But all I really want for Christmas is to know where JTT is.

Tell us, HollywoodLifers — Do YOU think we’ve seen the last of Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Comment below, let us know what you’re thinking!

When you think back to the ’90s, who’s the first teen celebrity you think of? For me, it’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Good ol’ J.T.T., Tim Allen’s adorable middle son on Home Improvement and the voice of Simba in Disney’s The Lion King. Nineties kids cut his pictures out of magazines and taped ’em to their walls — after all, he was one of the cutest teens of the decade.

So, what’s he been up to since Home Improvement ended in 1998? Well, for one thing, he turns 35 this year and now looks like this:

Matt Baron/BEI/REX/

Like many child stars, Thomas still looks great, just a bit older, which tends to happen to … well, all of us. The biggest difference between ’90s J.T.T. and 2016 Jonathan Taylor Thomas is that his style has drastically improved — again, something that has happened to us all (thank goodness). Everyone fell victim to the bad highlights and bizarre trends of the decade, so we can’t blame him for the same.

Career-wise, Thomas has acted on and off since his heyday, voicing roles in the The Wild Thornberrys and The Simpsons during the early ’00s, and appearing on shows including 8 Simple Rules and Last Man Standing. In the latter, which stars his former TV father Tim Allen, Thomas took his cameo as an opportunity to make a few fun inside jokes about Home Improvement. As for the future, Thomas has reportedly been shopping around a pilot with former costar Zachery Ty Bryan.

Ready to keep reminiscing? Here’s Thomas with another of our favorite ’90s teen stars:

Getty Images

Recognize the face on the right? It’s Devon Sawa, a.k.a. Casper from the 1995 film (and here’s what he looks like now, if you’re curious). He starred alongside Thomas in 1997’s Wild America.

And here’s J.T.T. with ’90s supermodels Tyra Banks and Cindy Crawford, both of whom look just as beautiful then as they do now.

Getty Images

But wait — there’s more! There are a few vintage posters and magazine covers starring this guy floating around on Instagram that might spark some serious nostalgia.

View this post on Instagram

I used to love this boys face lol

A post shared by TaraBaby💚MissGreen (@noahs_mommy__6.11.15) on May 31, 2016 at 8:21pm PDT

View this post on Instagram

At a 90s themed birthday party which includes a Jonathan Taylor Thomas wall. Of course. #jonathantaylorthomas #party #90s

A post shared by Stacey Raymond (@staceyraymond) on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:41pm PST

While we’re a little sad we haven’t seen much J.T.T. over the past couple decades, here’s hoping he pops up on the small screen ASAP! Television can always use a little more ’90s, after all.

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Sam Escobar Contributor Sam’s enthusiasm for makeup is only rivaled by their love of all things relating to cats.