A talented, intelligent actor, Jonathan Taylor Thomas became a star as the mischievous middle son Randy to Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen) on "Home Improvement" (ABC, 1991-99). The breakout star of the hit series, Thomas was dubbed "JTT" by young fans and showered with kid-friendly plaudits, including a Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award. After lending his raspy voice to the young Simba in Disney's "The Lion King" (1994), Thomas toplined the kids vs. adults comedy "Man of the House" (1995), the Mark Twain adaptation "Tom and Huck" (1995), the adventure "Wild America" (1997) and the holiday comedy "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (1998). After leaving "Home Improvement" that same year, Thomas tackled grittier, more challenging roles in projects like "Speedway Junky" (1999). Thomas focused on his education and while he continued to make a handful of small appearances, including recurring roles on "Smallville" (The WB, 2001-06; The CW, 2006-2011) and "8 Simple Rules" (ABC, 2002-05), as well as providing voicework for "The Wild Thornberrys" (Nickelodeon, 1998-2004) and "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ), Thomas seemed happier to remain out of the spotlight. Jonathan Taylor Thomas remained one of the most fondly regarded crushes of many viewers, leaving many to hope that he would one day launch his comeback as an adult.
Born Sept. 8, 1981 in Bethlehem, PA, Jonathan Taylor Weiss moved with his family to Sacramento, CA as a child, where he quickly began to book print ads and TV commercials. Around this time, he took "Jonathan Taylor Thomas" as a stage name which was inspired by his brother's first name. A vegetarian since the age of four, the raspy-voiced Thomas proved much more complex than the typical child star, seeming to approach show business with an ironic detachment and precocious intelligence well beyond his years. He landed his first big acting role as Greg Brady's son Kevin on the short-lived sitcom "The Bradys" (CBS, 1990), but quickly booked a better, star-making turn as the mischievous middle son Randy on the Tim Allen sitcom "Home Improvement" (ABC, 1991-99). An enormously popular series right out of the gate, the show quickly conquered the world and gave Thomas an enviable professional opportunity: standing out as the most talented and visually striking of Allen's three TV sons. To the chagrin of other cast members, Thomas' part grew at the expense of his co-stars and he rose to the occasion with charm and verve. Short of stature, but blessed with sandy-haired good looks and an impish charm, Thomas was quickly singled out as a teen heartthrob by younger fans of the show, and his fans - who, much to his displeasure, dubbed him "JTT" - snapped up countless teen magazines his face adorned. For his work on the show, Thomas was showered with kid-power awards, including a Young Artist Award and a Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award as well as induction into its Hall of Fame.
While starring on "Home Improvement," Thomas began branching out into film work, memorably voicing the young Simba in Disney's "The Lion King" (1994), which became a global, Oscar-winning blockbuster. He made his live-action feature film debut the following year in the comedy "Man of the House" (1995), a kid-friendly confection starring Chevy Chase and Farrah Fawcett as a couple whose romance is comically derailed by her resourceful, troublemaking son. Managing to walk the line between obnoxious and sympathetic, Thomas proved his star power by turning the lackluster film into a hit. That same year he played Tom Sawyer to Brad Renfro's Huckleberry Finn in the lightweight "Tom and Huck" (1995). While the movie itself earned poor reviews, the acting caliber of its two young stars caught the attention of critics. Chafing against the "teen idol" box in which he found himself, Thomas struggled to find suitable roles, essaying the famous puppet-turned-real-boy in the less-than-magical "The Adventures of Pinocchio" (1996) and joining Scott Bairstow and Devon Sawa to make a teen pin-up trifecta in the fact-based adventure "Wild America" (1997), which saw the actor essaying future nature photographer Marshall Stouffer. He played a privileged prep school student on a mission to make it home for the holidays in the teen comedy "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (1998) and made a cameo in the bizarre Ed Wood tribute "I Woke Up Early the Day I Died" (1998).
That same year, Thomas left "Home Improvement" to ostensibly focus on school and more challenging artistic opportunities. Fans who had grown up with the actor and retained a fond place for him in their hearts were challenged by his subsequent career moves, intended to shatter his boy-next-door stereotype with grittier roles. Portraying a drug-addicted hustler in 1999's festival-screened independent "Speedway Junky," Thomas surprised with a strong and nuanced performance. In 2000, amid rumors of his own homosexuality - which he adamantly denied - Thomas took on the role of a gay teenager tormented by his peers in the Terrence McNally-scripted drama "Mr. Roberts," a segment of the anthology "Common Ground" (Showtime, 2000). He returned to the big screen with a turn as a menacing youth befriended by a Southern widow (Ellen Burstyn) in the indie "Walking Across Egypt" (2000), guested on "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002), and lent his distinctive pipes to "The Wild Thornberrys" (Nickelodeon, 1998-2004) and "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). Although Thomas booked recurring roles on "Smallville" (The WB, 2001-06; The CW, 2006-2011) and "8 Simple Rules" (ABC, 2002-05), guested on "Veronica Mars" (UPN, 2004-06; The CW, 2006-07), and contributed to indies and short films, he shifted his focus from acting to education, turning down the opportunity to reunite with his "Home Improvement" co-stars at the TV Land Awards in 2009 in favor of attending class. However, in 2011, he reunited with his "Home Improvement" cast for an Entertainment Weekly photo shoot, and two years later, joined former TV dad Allen on his series, "Last Man Standing" (2011- ) - Thomas' first time onscreen since 2005.
By Jonathan Riggs
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved from Pennsylvania to Sacramento, California
Cast in a Burger King commercial at age eight
On his first trip to L.A., landed role on CBS' short-lived "The Bradys" as Greg's son Kevin
Cast as Randy Taylor on the ABC sitcom "Home Improvement"; left series during the 1998-1999 season to pursue education
Provided the voice of young Simba in Disney animated feature "The Lion King"
Made his feature acting debut in "Man of the House," co-starring Farrah Fawcett and Chevy Chase (filmed in 1994)
Starred alongside Brad Renfro in the children's adventure feature "Tom and Huck"
Played the titular puppet-turned-boy in the live-action adaptation "The Adventures of Pinocchio"
Starred with Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow as the wildlife photographer Stouffer brothers in the fact-based adventure "Wild America"
Landed lead role in the holiday release "I'll Be Home for Christmas"
Cast as drug-addicted hustler in "Speedway Junkie"; shown at film festivals
Played a gay teen tormented by his peers in the "Mr. Roberts" segment of the Showtime drama "Common Ground," scripted by Terrence McNally
Appeared in three episodes of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" as Bridget's study partner-turned-crush
Reunited with the "Home Improvement" cast, including Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson, for an <i>Entertainment Weekly</i> photo shoot