When he arrived on the Toronto set of Showtime’s Common Ground, Jonathan Taylor Thomas received a flippant greeting from his co-star, Steven Weber. “So, you ready to go gay?” Weber asked the 18-year-old actor. They both smiled.

Common Ground stars Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Steven Weber.
Tobias (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) with his teacher Gil Roberts (Steven Weber) in Common Ground promotion picture. © Showtime Networks Inc.

After more than a year away from his role as Randy Taylor, the popular middle son, on ABC’s Home Improvement, Thomas has chosen a part that stretches his acting muscles. He plays a teenager in a small town in the early 1970s who is beaten up by his classmates when they suspect he is gay. “It wasn’t a conscious decision like, ‘Oh, I have to distance myself from the image of the all-American kid,'” Thomas says of choosing the role.
“However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to challenge myself and do things outside that realm.”
Ironically, gossip surfaced about Thomas’s own sexual orientation two years ago. But sitting down to chat in a Los Angeles photo studio, Thomas seems unconcerned that the film may revive the old rumours. “I’m playing a role. I’m not gay,” he says, “but I’m not going to sacrifice the opportunity to play a great part just because the character is gay.”
That commitment to his craft is partly what won Thomas the role, says Common Ground director Donna Deitch. “We picked him for his age and appeal – – but also because there is something very interesting about an actor doing something so different from what he’s done before.”
Born Jonathan Weiss, Thomas was 8 years old when he started acting in commercials shortly after his family moved from Pennsylvania to California (his mother and manager, Claudine, is now divorced from his father, Steve Weiss; brother Joel, 22, is in college).
In 1990, he played Greg Brady’s son in CBS’s short-lived drama The Bradys, but it was not until he was cast on Home Improvement, in 1991, that he gained public attention. By 1994, he was a teen sensation – voicing young Simba in “The Lion King” and going to star in “Man of the House” (1995), “Wild America” (1997) and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (1998).
Thomas decided to leave Home Improvement, however, just before the final season, primarily to concentrate on his academic studies. (He’s now a senior at a private school in L.A.) “I left because I wanted to make sure [my] high school portfolio looked the best it could, so I didn’t want to be working a 60-hour week,” he says.
He didn’t stop acting, though, and he is enjoying the opportunity to “be more selective” and to tackle some controversial subjects. “Yes,” he says of Common Ground, “it is about homosexuality in small-town America. But it’s really about prejudice in general, [which] everyone has experienced on some level.” And while Thomas admits he hasn’t gone through the torment his character does, he got a taste of it when he was making “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
During filming, his agent called to tell him that the Web site Cybersleaze had posted a notice that Thomas was gay. Thomas says he was “shocked” at how quickly the rumour spread, but in the end, he says, “I just laughed at the whole situation. At some point, every male actor in Hollywood has been [rumoured to be] gay. I just [got] it when I was 16, but hopefully it’s done with now.”
Indeed, the last thing Thomas (who says he’s “not dating anyone seriously at the moment”) wants to do is dwell on the past. Currently, he’s awaiting word on where he’ll go to college, but Northwestern tops his list. “I’m going to study everything,” he says. “I’m trying to plan for longevity in this business. I have a lot of growing to do, and a lot to learn. But I’m 18 years old, so I have some time.

Source: TV-Guide
Author: Ted Johnson
Date: January 29th, 2000

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