It seems like only yesterday that JTT walked onto the set of Home Improvement to the sound of thousands of tiny millennial hearts thumping with joy across the U.S., all longing for the heartthrob, scribbling his name on their Trapper Keeper. Or better yet, they had a Trapper Keeper with his blushing face on the front. That perfectly coiffed hair, dimples for days and tips frosted to perfection – cue the swoon.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas was more than just a teenage celebrity – he was THE teenage celebrity of the early ’90s. Somehow, this Romeo came to represent everything that was valued in the all-American boy. He’d already blown up at the age of 8 with only his second gig, Home Improvement, the family-friendly sitcom helmed by comedian Tim Allen that ushered us out of the ’80s era of Family Matters and Full House to the more suburban dreams of the ’90s.
The show may have brought Thomas into the spotlight, but Disney took him to the next level and solidified his stardom when he voiced the role of young Simba in the massive animated blockbuster The Lion King. At this point, JTT’s career could have gone anywhere, because once you put a pair of Mouse Ears on your head – in the words of Mufasa – “Everything the light touches is yours.”
However, in 1998, only 7 years into superstardom and after big screen hits like The Adventures of Pinocchio, Tom and Huck, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Thomas made a big decision that still has fans scratching their heads. He walked away from the limelight. A move that’s hardly believable in an era where everyone out there is clamoring for “likes” and “followers,” Thomas hung up his hat and made a move to get an education.
“I’d been going nonstop since I was 8 years old,” Thomas told PEOPLE. “I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break.”
In the near decade that JTT was away from the business he did quite a bit of schooling: Harvard for philosophy and history, Columbia University for general studies and a semester abroad at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. Turns out our trouble-loving “Randy” Taylor was actually a bookworm at heart.
Thomas has made some small cameo appearances on shows like Smallville and Veronica Mars during his near 20-year hiatus, but we haven’t seen much of him again until recently. Last year, Thomas reunited with his old co-star Tim Allen on his ABC comedy Last Man Standing in a recurring role on the show.
While he hasn’t announced his “great big comeback” or anything of the sort, he has enjoyed getting another taste of his bygone stardom.
So does the future hold a place for the return of JTT? Maybe. But he also insists that being famous was never his life’s aspiration.
“I never took the fame too seriously,” he says. “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.”
We will always <3 JTT 4eva!
JTT is about to turn 34 – feeling old yet? Wait until you see how he looks!