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The Transformation Of Jonathan Taylor Thomas From Home Improvement To Now

Jonathan Taylor Thomas became famous at age 10 when he starred in "Home Improvement" with Tim Allen, playing middle son Randy Taylor until the show's last season in 1998. And when we say famous, we mean that at one point when he was just 12, he was receiving so many fan letters that his mother told People magazine they were thinking of hiring a second person just to answer his mail. The budding star found the idea of being in show business "pretty cool" at that time. "So I asked my mom and got signed up for acting lessons," he added. "I just thought the whole idea of being on TV, being recognized and having a good time was interesting."

"Home Improvement" was a big deal on ABC from 1991 to 1999 and Thomas made "teen idol" status — not just because of the show, but because of star turns in "The Lion King," in which he voiced young Simba and a number of other projects he did in the '90s. Yet Thomas chose to leave the show before its run was over, telling Conan O'Brien in 1998 that he wanted to go back to school. He said he liked school and wanted to go to college — although as E! Online reported, some of his co-stars, including Allen, seemed unhappy about the young man's decision to leave and to skip the series finale.

By that time, he was clearly tired of some of the attention he was getting, which may explain why he exited the industry in about 2006, with just one return close to a decade later. Here's how he changed from the time of "Home Improvement" to now.

Thomas continued acting until about 2005

After "Home Improvement," Thomas did continue to work, as shown on his IMDb page. In 2000, he made an appearance on an episode of the third season of "Ally McBeal" called "Do You Wanna Dance?" as an underage boy that Ally (Callista Flockhart) has apparently been chatting with online without realizing it (via TV Maze). That same year, he voiced the character of Tyler Tucker on "The Wild Thornberrys." Additionally, he made guest appearances on shows like "Smallville," "The Simpsons," "8 Simple Rules" and "Veronica Mars" all the way through 2005. 

At that point in his life, Thomas also expressed an interest in directing for the first time. In 2006, he directed a short called "The Extra." However, after that, he disappeared for some time. He doesn't have any social media accounts, so fans really had no way of finding out what he was doing. And clearly, this is exactly what he wanted.

"I never took the fame too seriously," he told People in 2013. "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."

His non-Hollywood activities during the 2000s were likely college-related, though. According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, he graduated from Chaminade College Preparatory School in 2000. Thomas then attended Harvard University, St. Andrews University as a contemporary of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2002 (via The Scotsman), and Columbia University. He is listed as a 2010 graduate of Columbia

He made a brief return to the spotlight in Last Man Standing

Back in 2013, Thomas got back into the industry briefly. It seems that whatever bad feelings might have lingered following the way Thomas left "Home Improvement" had dissipated, and he had been hanging around Tim Allen's show "Last Man Standing" for a year before he was asked to guest-star on the series. This resulted in the first on-screen reunion for the two since 1998. He played John Baker, Kristin's (Amanda Fuller) boss, in three episodes, then made a cameo in 2015 as Randy, the son of Helen Potts, who was played by Patricia Richardson — his on-screen mom in "Home Improvement." And yes, references to that previous show were made. 

Allen told Yahoo! Entertainment that Thomas had been learning from the show's director, John Pasquin. "He really was dedicated to his studies, and then kind of got away from TV," he explained. "But he graduated and he came back, and loves directing, loves working with actors. So he's been shadowing John, some of last year and most of this year. He's just been on the set all the time." 

He said that Thomas was shy and nervous about his return to acting. "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," Allen said. 

Thomas ended up directing three episodes of the show between 2013 to 2016, so all that time on the set didn't go to waste.

Could he pop up again in the future?

Although Thomas hasn't been seen on screen or even behind one since then, don't count him out yet. In 2017, he was inducted into the board of the Screen Actors Guild —American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In 2019, the 39-year-old industry veteran was re-elected; his current term ends this year. As such, Thomas is still active in Hollywood. And in fact, when his fellow "Home Improvement" castmate Zachery Ty Bryan visited Access Live at the end of 2018, Taylor alluded to a project that he and Thomas may be doing with Macauley Culkin's Bunny Ears lifestyle brand.

"He's got an awesome podcast that we've been listening to for a while and we kinda came up with a concept and presented it to them and it looks like we're moving forward," Bryan said. 

As of now, there's no word on what the project might be, but around the same time, an interaction between actor Devon Sawa and Macaulay Culkin on Twitter (via Pop Culture) did indicate that he and Thomas might be friends. So, stay tuned. We might be getting more transformational news from this actor/director any day now.