Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (2024)

  • Entertainment

ByKate Prince

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (1)

Brenda Chase/Getty Images

The '90s nostalgia is experiencing a resurgence these days. Not only is the fashion coming back, but there's a newfound appreciation for the pop culture from that era, too. Fewer stars were more recognizable or talked about during the kitsch decade than Jonathan Taylor Thomas. With his chiseled cheekbones and slanted smile, the "Home Improvement" star stole the hearts of fans across the globe. He even caught the eye of Disney, who enlisted him to voice the iconic character of Simba in "The Lion King."


During his stratospheric rise to fame, the youngster seemed to do no wrong, going from strength to strength. However, despite opportunities falling at his feet, Thomas all but disappeared from public view after exiting Tim Allen's famous sitcom, instead opting to choose education over fame and fortune.

While his aspirations were admirable, they took a toll on Thomas' future in the spotlight, making it difficult for him to return to an industry that he remains passionate about. So, what exactly prompted Taylor's about-turn when it came to his path in life? Was his legions of adoring fans simply too much to handle, or were the rumors surrounding his sexuality too much to bear? More importantly — will Thomas ever be able to find his way back into Hollywood's good graces, or has it been too long for him to make a triumphant return?Let's take a look at the tragic tale of one of the entertainment industry's most promising stars.


He was raised by a single mom

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (2)

Barry King/Getty Images

A few decades ago, living in a one-parent household had much more stigma attached to it than it does today, where modern families come in all shapes and sizes. Like many stars, Jonathan Taylor Thomas' parents split when he was a kid. Though he has never talked at length about the circ*mstances surrounding the demise of his parent's relationship, it's often mentioned in profiles of the star, both back then and now. His early years were pretty normal by American standards. He was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the second child of Claudine Gonsalves and Stephen Weiss. The family upped sticks and moved to Sacramento, California when Thomas was just 4 years old.


It didn't take long for them to recognize Thomas' star potential, and over the next few years, the youngster began modeling and starring in multiple commercials. While his career was on the up, his parents' relationship was going down. Shortly after he landed his most famous role as Randy in "Home Improvement," Gonsalves and Weiss divorced and Thomas moved to Los Angeles with his mom and brother.

Thomas was undergoing an intense period of change at that time, going from an odd-job cute TV tot to a cast member of one of the biggest sitcoms of American history, all while dealing with his parent's breakup and a move to a new city.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas found Hollywood difficult to navigate

As the next few years ticked by, America watched as Jonathan Taylor Thomas grew up on the TV screen, from a sweet 9-year-old to a self-assured young man. Fans adored "Home Improvement," his character Randy, and the on-screen chemistry between this fictional family so much that it was often hard to imagine they weren't really related. By 1996, Thomas was 15 years old, and stealing the hearts of swooning tweens across the globe. On paper, it seems like every young actor's dream, to be coming up so strongly in such a competitive world — however, all that glitters isn't always gold.


In an interview with Premiere Magazinein 1996, Thomas admitted that the bright lights of Hollywood and everything associated with it didn't appeal to him."You can't be trapped in this bubble called the acting industry," he told journalist Christopher Connelly. "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."

Even at this early age, arguably not far from the beginning of his career, Thomas seemed to have an aversion to the A-list lifestyle. In contrast to his contemporaries, such as his "Tom and Huck" co-star Brad Renfro who allegedly ran wild on the set of the movie, Thomas seemed to back away from the limelight, rather than run into it.


He suffered from ill-health during Home Improvement

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (4)

Getty Images/Getty Images

There are rules and conditions for underage actors working in the industry, such as a limit to how many hours they can work a day, a set amount of school time on-set, and more. With that being said, that doesn't necessarily take away the stressful side of the job. After all, an actor is an actor, and even youngsters are expected to work on their lines and hold up their end of the bargain. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was on the set of "Home Improvement" for 9 and a half hours a day, according to an interview he gave to People early on in the show's run. His incredible work ethic left little time for him to simply be a carefree kid.


"You have school, friends, learning your lines, and making sure your performance is up to speed," he told the publication, before going on to note that he wasn't always in the best health while at work, either."I can't tell you how many shows I've done with full-blown migraine headaches."

Migraines are no joke. Often accompanied by nausea and visual disturbances, migraines often require sufferers to lay down in a dark room with painkillers and a cold compress — not exactly a condition that is compatible with extra long days on brightly lit sets. Nevertheless, Thomas pushed through, showing the kind of dedication of a star far beyond his years.

When he left Home Improvement there was a lot of bad blood

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (5)

Getty Images/Getty Images

Sitcoms have always been a cornerstone of American television. For actors, landing a part in a successful TV show can be beneficial far beyond the steady paycheck. It can often lead to bigger and better things, giving them a platform that puts them at the forefront of a casting director's mind. However, Jonathan Taylor Thomas opted to voluntarily leave "Home Improvement" in 1999 early in the final season of the show.


Fans didn't quite understand Thomas' decision and were hoping he would return for the show's finale to bring a well-rounded conclusion to the beloved program. As it turns out, Patricia Richardson, who played Thomas' mother Jill on the show, and Tim Allen, who played his father, Tim, weren't all that happy with the young star's decision to snub the finale, either.

While talking to TV Guide at the time, Richardson said (via the New York Post):"It's a pretty sore point around here. I think there were a lot of bad feelings all along." Richardson went on to speculate that Thomas may have received bad advice. As for Allen, he admitted that there was tension between himself and Thomas, which stemmed from Allen not understanding Thomas' reasoning that he wanted to go to school."I mentioned [publicly] that I was confused. I don't think he liked that," Allen said. One thing is for sure, it was a sad ending to an otherwise glittering era of Thomas' career.


Jonathan Taylor Thomas said he would either quit Home Improvement or put himself in an early grave

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (6)

Albert Ortega/Getty Images

When Jonathan Taylor Thomas made the choice to leave "Home Improvement," he was still very young in terms of Hollywood. He was on the cusp of a transition most teenagers go through; finishing high school and moving on to college. While others in his position may have decided to keep on working and milk the entertainment cash cow while they still could, Thomas wasn't interested. He wanted to go to college and study, and according to him, staying on the show would have had a devastating impact on his life.


Of course, fans and journalists were still keen to dive deeper into Thomas' reason for leaving the series. When answering some questions for the Kids Choice Awards around the time, Thomas was quizzed on what his life was like after leaving the series. His response was candid: "It has been a change in the routine, but it's been a change that I've welcomed ... I've gotten to go to school and be with my friends ... looking back, I made such a good decision 'cause had I stayed at the show and tried to do academically what I'm doing now, I would've put myself in an early grave."

Though Thomas laughed awkwardly at the end of this sentence, his tone was serious and measured throughout, prompting fans to wonder if there was more to his departure than meets the eye.


Jonathan Taylor Thomas was constantly asked about his sexuality

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (7)

Denny Keeler/Getty Images

Being the center of gossip and speculation comes hand in hand with being famous, just ask Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.It's part and parcel of being in the public eye — the paychecks might be enormous, but it all comes at a price. Jonathan Taylor Thomas may have been a young star during his peak Hollywood years, but unfortunately, that didn't stop him from paying the piper, either. It seems wild now looking back, but discussions about Jonathan Taylor Thomas' supposed sexuality were rife during the '90s.


It was such a talking point that when Thomas appeared on "The Tonight Show" in 1998, host Jay Leno brought it up. "Like two years ago, people were going, 'Jay, he's gay ... my friend knows a guy who knows a guy ...' did this drive you nuts?" Used to brushing these questions off, Thomas shrugged and said he wasn't that upset by it as it was just part of the Hollywood rumor mill. Not satisfied with the answer, Leno bluntly asked him whether he was gay, to which Thomas laughed and said "No, I'm not."

It's easy to put this down to chatshow banter, but at the time, Thomas was still under 18. This relentless speculation about his sexuality was inappropriate on multiple levels. Thomas took it in his stride, but it's not a stretch to suggest it may have been a factor in his retreat from the public eye.


He didn't like any of the attention from fans, but felt indebted to them

Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (8)

Brenda Chase/Getty Images

For decades, the public fascination with a good-looking celebrity has never waned. If they're likable, then it's even more electric, with diehard fans often going to great lengths to see their favorite stars in the flesh. Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce know it all too well (pardon the pun) and so does Jonathan Taylor Thomas. In the '90s, he was one of the most popular teen idols of his time. According to Vice, Thomas' legion of fans would often hunt him down in the obscurest of places, such as the backwoods of Canada where he filmed "Wild America."


Some actors love to be followed and be recognized, but Thomas had a much more complex feeling toward his superstardom than that of a typical teenage boy. Some in his position may have taken full advantage of this amount of attention, but the actor told The New York Times that while he appreciated his fans, he couldn't pander to them completely.”You are a part of their life, and there is a lot that is owed them,” he explained candidly to the publication. ”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.”

This simple admission paints a picture of a young man far more mature than his years, who perhaps wasn't quite as comfortable with the spotlight as fans hoped he would be.


He made a timid return to acting in 2013, but didn't think he still had it

By 2013, Thomas had been gone from the industry for nigh on a decade. He enrolled at Harvard after leaving "Home Improvement" and eventually went on to spend two years at St. Andrews in Scotland, the same university that Prince William attended. As the years ticked by, fans became resigned to the fact that his time in the entertainment industry was just a flash in the pan ... however, he made a return to acting almost 15 years after exiting the sitcom to appear alongside his former TV dad, Tim Allen, on his show "Last Man Standing." Allen spilled the beans to Yahoo! Entertainment at the time.


The funnyman divulged that Thomas knew the show's director, John Pasquin, and had been shadowing him to learn more about directing."[Thomas] is interested in directing. He's always been wonderful [as an actor], then he went to college and he found other interests ...He graduated and he came back, and loves directing, loves working with actors," Allen said. While it sounds like Thomas was tentatively trying to find his way back into the business, it didn't exactly come back to him naturally.

Allen said that his longtime friend was very shy and nervous on set, but there was more to it. "He worried whether he still had it, and he didn't want to do [the show] because he's had other stuff in mind."


Despite expressing a desire to work in the industry, Thomas hasn't had a credit since 2015

All in all, Jonathan Taylor Thomas appeared in four episodes of Tim Allen's sitcom "Last Man Standing" between 2013 and 2015. Each time he appeared, fans were hopeful it would mean he was on his way to a more permanent return to the industry, but it didn't exactly pan out that way. Despite Allen's previous statements about Thomas loving the work, the star hasn't had an acting credit since his last appearance on the show, be it as an actor, director, or otherwise. This further retreat away from the spotlight seems like an odd choice, given what Thomas told Entertainment Weekly back in 2011.


"I think at this point, I'd eventually like to work behind the camera," he explained. "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." Of course, Thomas did follow it up by working with Allen and shadowing the director on "Last Man Standing" a few short years later, but it begs the question, what changed after his work on the show?What caused Thomas to go back into hiding, after expressing so much desire to forge a new path in Hollywood?

We still hope for a resurgence, but Thomas' memories of attention-hungry fans, nosey journalists, and grueling work schedules could be enough to last him a lifetime.


Tragic Details About Jonathan Taylor Thomas' Life - The List (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated:

Views: 5409

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.