Today we bring an interview with Jonathan from September 1993. The 12 year old is busy on Home Improvement and on working on Disney’s next big animated feature – The Lion King.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas – Ready for anything!
by Anne M. Raso
We recently got a surprise phone call from adorable just-turned-12-year-old Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement, who is anything but your standard “stage brat” and has anything but your standard “stage mom.” When not on the set, he lives happily in suburban LA, hanging out at the mall and talking his mom into taking yet another exotic fishing trip. (As legend has it, the lightweight Jonathan reeled in a 60-pound halibut on a fishing trip to Alaska last year—and he’s still talking about it. He seems to have completely forgotten he’s on a Top Five rated sitcom!)
Q: I guess you’re calling us from the Home Improvement set?
Q: How many days a week do they need you over there? Do you have to go there five or six days a week?
A: Yeah. Five.
Q: How do you get your school work done? Do you have a tutor on the set?
A: Yeah, we have two teachers on the set. When we’re not filming we go back to our regular school.
Q: And where’s that?
A: In Los Angeles. And when we are filming on the set,we have a trailer behind the stage and we do our school work there. But we film three weeks on, and one week off. And that one week off we go back to our regular school.
Q: What’s your typical day on the set like? Do you work for a couple of hours and get school for a couple of hours?
A: Every day varies, you know. We have to have a mandatory three hours of school so we always get that. And whenever we’re not filming, we go back to our school…well, I call it the school but you know, our trailer and we do our work. You know, everyday varies and every week varies depending on how much we’re in the script and if we have a big part or not.
Q: What are your best subjects in school?
A: Actually, I don’t know. I like history, science…math is alright. I like pretty much all the subjects.
Q: Is it hard to get good grades when you’re so busy with the show?
A: No, not really. I’m in all the gifted classes in my school and stuff like that. The advance classes and stuff like that, but it’s not real hard. No.
Q: I think you’ve got a sister right? You’ve got one sister…
A: No, that’s Zack, I have an older brother. He’s sixteen.
Q: Is he an actor?
A: No, he’s not.
Q: Do you live with your mom and your brother?
A: Mm hmm.
Q: I guess you live in a suburb of L.A.?
A: Mm hmm.
Q: Have you lived there all your life?
A: No, I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And then I moved to Northern California where I started modeling, and doing some print work, and fashion shows and stuff like that.
Q: I’ve heard you’ve done some commercials like Burger King and Kellogg’s cereals.
A: Yeah. A talent agent took me down to L.A. and started getting me auditions. And I got a TV show called The Bradys, a lot of commercials, then I got Home Improvement.
Q: When you were on The Bradys, did you get to meet any of the original cast members? I know you played Greg’s son.
A: Yeah, I got to meet all The Bradys except for Marcia—Maureen McCormick.
Q: Did you watch that show in re-runs ever?
A: Not a lot. Not a ton. I started to get more interest in it after the show was over. After I finished doing the show because I thought, “Hey, I was part of that cast.” Well, not the new one. And so I started tuning in and watching The Bradys. It was pretty interesting actually ‘cause they were really young when they did that. And to see them all grown up on the set. It’s pretty funny.
Q: I heard you’ve done some stage work, too—that you’ve played the young Scrooge in “Scrooge” and a couple other things. How long ago was that? And are you still interested in doing stage work?
A: Yeah, I like doing theater a lot. I think that’s one of the nice things about Home Improvement is you get to film in front of a live audience. Not only you get to do a television series but it’s a play at the same time. All it is is a play with cameras. And I like doing that versus a taped show because there you get a reaction of the audience.
You can tell if they’re laughing or not. As opposed to, you know, when you are doing a taped show, a filmed show, that is. You see it on the air like next week and they put a laugh track on some line that wasn’t very funny.
Q: That’s true. But in a way, it’s not like doing a stage show because isn’t it true if you guys mess up you get to do another take even if the audience is there?
A: Yeah, that’s true. Stage is the opposite. You get one shot at it.
Q: What are your goals? I know this is a big question. Do you want to branch in to movies?
A: I’d like to do a feature film at some point.
I think that would be very nice. You know I’m doing a Disney animated feature film now. I’m playing the voice of young Simba in this thing called the Lion King and it should be out in the summer of ‘94. Yeah, I’d like to do a feature film while working on stuff here and there. But I think at some point I will do a feature film. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it but for the time being I’m pretty busy with Home Improvement.
Q: I hear you also have another cartoon Itsy Bitsy Spider and Spot The Dog. Do you want to talk about those a little bit?
A: Sure. Spot The Dog is a children’s video. Very young, like four and under. That’s really a nice aspect about Spot—that it is for very young kids. They have Barney and Sesame Street for like seven and up…but this is really young, like four and under. They really don’t have any videos that pertain to the real, real young kids. I think that’s nice about Spot. I’m doing the voice of Spot. The story is that Eric Keelps, who’s English, created this character for his young son. He eventually made it into books and they sold over 22 million copies worldwide.
Q: Now is Spot The Dog is an actual TV series or is it a home video.? I know you have a two part home video that you’re involved with.
A: It’s not a series. What it is is a series of videos but I’ve done two actual videos. They have five actual series within a video. They may have on one video, “Spot Goes To The Farm, “ “Spot Finds A Key,” and all these different things within a video. You get the video packaging which is interesting. You get not only the video, but you get a booklet version of…I don’t know, it depends on what video you are buying. You get a booklet on one of the segments within the video, you get the written down version.
Q: I assume it helps kids learn how to read. Just like how Spot and the original books kids grew up learning how to read.
Q: What your typical fan mail is like? What do people say to you in their letters?
A: The fan mail is nice. The people are always real kind and complimentary on the work that I do on the set and the show, all the other actors and all that. (Laughs.) The letters are sometimes interesting (laughs) from the different girls that write. I get a range from 18 to my age writing, and younger. So I always get a variety of letters.
I get about 70 letters a week. It keeps us busy here sorting through and reading the letters, and having to find the pictures. But we enjoy the fan letters and we appreciate it. If there’s one thing I would eliminate some thing, to give more time to the fan mail.
Q: Do you try to answer them all yourself? Or do you at least try to send an autographed picture out if you can’t write a letter?
A: Yeah. I do read the letter and I sign them, and we have a printout bio that is pretty much on the back of the picture. But I read all the letters and I sign all of them.
Q: What is your relationship like with the other two boys on the show?
A: We get along. We realize that we’re in a professional relationship. We here on the set with each other and we’re working together. We just have to roll with the punches. (Laughs.) We get on edge a little bit if the script is not that good and we’re under pressure to get the job done. We have school to do and all that. We get a little bit tense but we kind of work through it with the boys. You know, sometimes we get in little arguments but we get over it real quick.
Q: When you do argue what is it about usually?
A: It can stuff from serious stuff or it can be just regular dumb old stuff that kids fight about. Most of the times we do get along. It’s just those days that we’re real edgy that and it’s not that we even fight. There just little tic tacs, you know, get in a little arguments but they’re over with in a couple of minutes. And 90% of the time we do get along. We get along like brothers. We have a good time together.
Q: I heard you’re a really good fisherman. I read that you reeled in a 60 lb. halibut. Did you reel that in yourself or did people help you.
A: I reeled it in myself.
Q: Who’s the real cut-up on the set? There’s usually one clown out of a cast? Who is it on your show?
Q: Do you think he’s like his TV character?
A: As far as comedy wise, oh yeah. Although Tim does know a lot of stuff about tools. He doesn’t always blow stuff up. He is very talented in that area. He knows a lot about cars and tools and stuff like that.
Q: I’m curious to know if you guys knew this show was going to do so well? Like are you amazed that it’s always rated in the Top Five shows?
A: Yeah. You know, we didn’t know anything about the show. All we knew is that it was seven episodes. And that’s about it.
We came into here pretty much blind just trying to do the show and make it a hit. And it turned out for the best.
Q: I’m just curious, do you feel you missed out on anything growing up as an actor? You’ve apparently done at least five years. Do you feel that you’ve missed out on anything in your childhood?
A: No, not at all. I still play soccer on the weekends. I’ve played soccer for eight years. And the show hasn’t interfered with that. I play basketball. I play a lot of sports.
I still find time to go fishing. I get to travel all over the country doing charity events. I love travelling and getting to meet people. I don’t get to miss out on anything. In fact, I think my life has probably been enhanced by this experience because I get to meet new people everyday.
Q: It sounds like you’re very mature. Some kids—this is legendary in Hollywood—kind of fall apart. They don’t handle this well and they get a big head and it ends and they can’t make the transition to an adult actor. It seems to me that you’re a lot smarter than most kids. You take things a day at a time and you know what you’re doing?
A: Yeah. That’s what my family and I try to do. We concentrate really hard on keeping a level head and being a regular kid because it’s very important that you still get exercise and you still play sports. You get to talk to your friends. You get to hang out at the movies and do things that you want to do. And I think that’s a good thing to concentrate on because if you don’t—like you said— you’re going to have a very unhappy childhood, and you’re going to regret it the rest of your life. So I think it’s real important to keep level-headed and be a kid. And no matter how hard it is, it’s very hard. You know, we don’t make practices. But when we can, if we’re a half an hour late we still go and we practice and stuff like that. You just have to concentrate very, very hard keeping a level head and being a kid.
Q: Have any funny things happened with fans coming up to you? Have you ever had a fan come up to you and just faint? Or just to cut a piece of your hair off or anything like that?
A: No, not really. I’ve had weird requests in fan letters. You know, like someone wanted a chunk of my hair. And so the next day on the show, I did get a haircut and I saved some and I sent it to her. (Laughs.)
Q: That’s funny. Where was this fan and what town?
A: I’m not actually sure but it was awhile ago. I know I just remembered that cause it was pretty odd. But on the Vicki show we did have (a weird situation)…they have a corner called “Fantasy Corner” or “ Vicki’s Fantasies.” People write into the Vicki Lawrence show and they say, “My fantasy is so and so.” And a girl about 14 requested to see me. So we went on the show and I got to meet her and we took her out to an ABC party, which was that same night, and we had a good time.
Q: Have you kept in touch with her?
A: Actually it was only a couple of weeks ago. It was last week actually and it’s going to air October 6.
Q: You guys went to a party together?
A: Yeah, it was a fun thing. I didn’t know her. But she was a fan and she had the guts to write in.’ And she was very nice.
Q: Where was the party? Was it a charity
A: No, actually it was an ABC party, the network’s thing. It was an annual get together that they have. Everyone from the ABC shows goes. All the kids from Full House, Family Matters, Roseanne, all the new shows— Getting By, George, etc. Patrick Duffy, Suzanne Somers, Lori Laughlin, Dave Coutlier, all the adults that are on ABC shows go… and all the executives from ABC go to the party. It’s a big thing.
Q: Are you friends with people on the other ABC shows?
A: Oh yeah. We have a good time together. We don’t get to see them a lot but we do have a good time.
Q: I went to the cafeteria at ABC once, and everybody from every show was sitting around eating lunch. If you were a fan of a lot of these shows it was like heaven.
A: Different studios have a lot of different shows. At our lot we have Boy Meets Girl, which is a new series coming up. We have The Bowmans. We have a bunch of different series that are filmed on our lot. Our lot isn’t very big. A lot which is across the street, Warner Brothers, is huge. And they have all the ABC shows and all the NBC, CBS and all different shows. It all depends on the lot.
Q: It must be a lot of fun doing what you do?
A: Yeah, actually it’s 9:06, I’ve got to get to school.
Q: What is your New Years Resolution?
A: I don’t know. For me personally. I don’t know. Probably to catch a big old fish.
Q: What kind?
A: A big, 10 lb. rainbow trout.
Source: unknown Date: September 1993 Author: Anne M. Raso