Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 13 Chapter 14

There's a lot more to being an actor than memorizing scripts and hitting the mark for the camera. It takes dedication, hard work, and a lot of sacrifices. Of course, for some who have chosen acting as a career, stardom is the reward. And while that may sound enviable, it, too, has its ups and downs.

Jonathan may have started out as a child actor, but by the time he reached his teen years, he had become a star. "I never really expected all this; it's not something I ever planned for," JTT admits. Still Jonathan would be the first to agree that there is much he loves about his newly minted status, especially getting to do cool things that most ordinary kids never would - but because he's so honest, he'd also admit that there are times when he wishes he wasn't quite so famous after all.

At first, when the spotlight turns its bold bright attention on an actor, it can be pretty exciting. One of the best perks of glitz and glamour for Jonathan is getting to meet and mix with some of his idols. He's invited to Hollywood premieres and parties all the time and his name is on the hottest VIP lists. He's been part of the gala festivities for the openings of Planet Hollywood restaurants in San Diego and Atlanta and even hung out with superstar owners Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sly Stallone. At the London premiere of The Lion King, Jonathan spent some quality time with music megastar Elton John. Even more exciting for sports fan JTT, he thought it was incredibly cool when he met former boxing heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield - who autographed boxing gloves for him - as well as the current champ, George Foreman, who guested on Home Improvement.

There were others. "I had a dream come true when I met Dee Brown of the Boston Celtics," Jonathan recalled. "I've been a big fan for a long time, and when he came to Los Angeles to play the Clippers, I even got to go backstage and met the entire team. It was a blast. I got autographs and an NBA ball."

As an all-star kid, Jonathan also gets invited to some of the most fun events around, like Wrestlemania. He got to ride on Disneyland's brand-new Raiders of the Lost Ark ride, not only for free but before it was even open to the general public.

Then, there are the freebies. Everyone seems to be handing them out to the young star. Whenever JTT goes to a Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe, he comes away with bags full of goodies: T-shirts, caps, jackets. He could actually build an entire wardrobe from the giveaways alone. "I have a huge collection of hats from different companies," JTT has described. The sports and clothing companies like Reebok, Nike, Adidas, J. Crew, and Doc Martens also send Jonathan their newest lines regularly. All they hope is that the much-photographed young star wear their shoes or clothes out in public or in photo shoots. It's good advertising for them.

Another perk of fame is the publicity and attention routinely showered on JTT. Profiled on such TV shows as Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Regis & Kathie Lee, and Good Morning America, it has given Jonathan the opportunity to talk about his latest projects and even publicize charitable causes that are close to his heart.

Jonathan has also been invited to appear at several glamorous TV award shows. He got to present Elton John and Tim Rice a Golden Globe award for Best Song for The Lion King's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." He did presenting honors at the SAG Awards ceremony as well, and was front and center at the People's Choice Awards when Home Improvement took home the top comedy trophy in 1994.

In addition, Jonathan also hosted TBS-TV's Cybermania '94 Awards show with actor Leslie Nielsen, which was the first televised interactive awards show. Trophies went to the best CD-ROMS and video games of the year. One reason JTT is in demand as a presenter is because he's gotten so famous himself - another is that he can be counted on to never mispronounce a nominee's name or goof up his speech!

Another obvious perk of being an all-star kid is the money. Let's face it, showbiz sure pays better than a weekend baby-sitting job or clerking at a video store. Most kids with afterschool jobs pull in the minimum wage of around $5.50 per hour; working showbiz kids can expect to earn thousands of dollars per week. Of course, by law most of that money goes into trust funds and savings accounts, but young actors do end up with more pocket money than the average teenager. JTT is no exception, and he absolutely appreciates what those extra dollars can buy. "The best part of being in showbiz is being able to buy stuff I enjoy like fishing equipment and going on fishing trips," he once said.

But Jonathan is hardly a spendthrift - not by a long shot. The fact that he is earning top dollar right now has allowed him to be secure with his future, which is important to anyone who wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Jonathan appreciates the value of money and the opportunity he's had to earn it. "I save my money," he says. "I think everyone's tempted to spend it, but the right thing to do is save it." And then he adds in typical boy fashion, "Of course, once in a while I'll see something - usually fishing gear or baseball cards - that I've gotta have and I'll go get it."

The most heartwarming part of being famous, however, is the fans. JTT has them by the barrelful. He gets tons of fan letters, up to five thousand a week. He's grateful for every single letter - for two reasons. Professionally, getting this much mail tells JTT's bosses just how popular he really is. That's important. With that kind of affirmation, his role on Home Improvement has been beefed up considerably, and he's received significantly more movie offers than ever before.

But more importantly, perhaps, is how all that mail makes Jonathan feel. It's incredibly heartwarming. It really makes him feel good that people out there appreciate his work and care about him. It is not something he has ever taken for granted.

Indeed, Jonathan's greatest wish involves his fans and the letters they send him. "If there's one thing I could do besides making a better world, it would be to write back more," he says. "I get swamped with fan letters, and I do read them. I appreciate each and every letter. I feel bad that kids take the time and effort to write stuff that comes from deep down in their hearts. It's real important stuff. I'd love to sit down and write a two-page letter to each one, and if I had the time, believe me, I would."

Since JTT can't write back to all his fans, he tries to meet as many of them as possible. JTT gets a kick out of the many autograph sessions he has all over the country. And he almost always ends up staying longer than scheduled to make sure everyone gets a handshake, an autograph, and often an instant snapshot with him. "I never want to disappoint anyone," is Jonathan's motto.

The Other Side of the Coin

But Jonathan sometimes gets upset that he can't respond to each and every fan personally. Which is part of the downside of fame. Sometimes Jonathan just can't be everything to everyone. He's only human ... and he's only fourteen years old! For that reason, fame can also be something of a burden to Jonathan.

His success has brought out the jealousy in some of his peers. After all, other young actors wouldn't be human if they didn't feel some twinges of envy for JTT. Sometimes they forget that it isn't his fault he's so popular.

Only recently Jonathan was invited to play in a sports game with other teen actors. But on the way to the event he got lost and arrived late. Instead of waiting for an explanation, at least one not-so-famous young actor yelled, "Oh, Jonathan had to make an entrance - so he purposely came late." JTT was given no chance to explain.

Comments like that really hurt Jonathan's feelings. He wouldn't be human if they didn't. There's jealousy in his private life as well. In an interview with TV Guide, JTT recalled how some schoolmates reacted to him when he was first on Home Improvement. "The bigger kids like to give us a hard time, trying to put us in the trash cans and stuff." Sounds like a scene from his TV series, but it was really nothing to laugh at!

Neither is the attention Jonathan sometimes gets from the press. His every move and action is dissected and put under the publicity microscope. The first time he felt the sting of media criticism was, of course, during the Home Improvement flap when all the boys were slammed for being "greedy" without getting a chance to explain their side of the story. That was a tough lesson in now unfair fame can be at times; but that wasn't the only instance Jonathan was singled out by the "poison pens" of the press. Ironically, he's found himself under fire for just being himself! For Jonathan is a very intelligent, very well spoken young man. In some press accounts his articulateness has been termed "jarringly erudite," as if he were a phony because he's such an intelligent conversationalist. Instead of being impressed with his maturity and understanding, Jonathan was accused of being "programmed" and having "well-rehearsed answers to questions."

When a kid reporter from Kidsday asked Jonathan if the jealousy and criticism he's encountered bothers him, he candidly answered, "I think everyone has had their feelings hurt deeply at some point in their lives." It's safe to say, Jonathan certainly has, too.

Perhaps the biggest sacrifice to stardom is the trade-in of a normal lifestyle. Jonathan's mom told the National Enquirer, "I work hard to keep Jonathan a normal kid." But the truth is Jonathan's life is anything but normal compared to that of most fourteen-year-olds. "I've had to give up a lot of things," JTT himself admitted shyly to a journalist. Not the least of which is his beloved soccer. He simply has no time to be at practice or even go to all the games. And JTT deeply misses being part of a team being just "one of the guys." And then there are his friendships. Many of them have fallen victim to his superstar status. Now Jonathan always has to be on guard when he meets new people. It's always in the back of his mind that new pals may just want to hang out with him and be his friend because he's on TV, not because of his personality.

Add to this mix the pressure of trying to live a normal life, working a steady job, going to school, traveling around the country and the world and it's spelled S-T-R-E-S-S! Jonathan isn't immune to this mostly adult complaint. He's such a sensitive kid, he takes all his responsibilities to heart. He told People magazine, "You have school, friends, learning your lines, and making sure your performance is up to speed. I can't tell you how many shows I've done with full-blown migraine headaches."

Truthfully, his kind of go-go schedule can really take its toll. It can lower one's resistance and Jonathan has been prone to the flu, stomach viruses, and sore throats. Yet he continues to keep up this breakneck pace. Why? Well, it goes to the heart of who Jonathan Taylor Thomas really is. He's just so very thankful for his success and wants to share that and bring joy to others, but most importantly, JTT never wants to disappoint anyone!