Why Jonathan Taylor Thomas Disappeared From the Spotlight

Watch: Jonathan Taylor Thomas Spotted for First Time in 8 Years

Breaking news: Jonathan Taylor Thomas doesn't look "unrecognizable." He just grew up.

We know, we know, this may come as a shock to some, but teen idols are not, in fact, preserved in amber like that insect in Jurassic Park, and our latest example of this phenomenon is the reemergence of Jonathan Taylor Thomas a.k.a. J.T.T. (though true fans know his real last name is Weiss). 

The 39-year-old former child star was recently photographed out in the wild like us regular humans for the first time since 2013, though he last appeared onscreen in Last Man Standing in 2015.

On June 20, Jonathan and his two small white dogs were spotted in Los Angeles on a casual walk. Wearing Nike sneakers, loose jeans and a zipped up dark hoodie, along with sunglasses, a New York Mets baseball cap and a black mask that was worn around his chin, he pretty much looked like every other coffee-deprived dude in the city.

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Except for the fact that he lived on the bedroom walls of millions of young girls in the '90s and somehow didn't look exactly the same as he did in those Tiger Beat posters. Cue the worldwide trending topic on Twitter, endless headlines about J.T.T. looking "unrecognizable" and the group chats among millennial women about their shared imaginary boyfriend being spotted—gasp!—vaping. (Gen-Z, feel free to add a shared love for J.T.T. to the ever-growing list of the generation's apparently uncool attributes, along with side pars and skinny jeans. We wear them all with pride!)

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J.T.T. is far from the first former child star to become the subject of such public fascination for merely just growing up. Come on, how many clickbait articles have we all double tapped on after being taunted with "you'll never guess what [insert actor or actress name here] looks like today"? 

But the difference is Jonathan was on a different level of teen idol, living on the same plane, at least for a time, as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Macaulay Culkin and Devon Sawa. After his big break as Randy Taylor in Home Improvement in 1991, Jonathan became the "It" young actor in the business. He voiced Young Simba in The Lion King. He starred in Man of the House, Tom Sawyer, Wild America and I'll Be Home For Christmas. For the majority of the decade, You couldn't buy a teen magazine without his face on it. Basically, he was a more mainstream Timothee Chalamet.

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But, like the Olsens, Jonathan had ambitions far beyond Hollywood, choosing to leave Home Improvement in 1998, with the sitcom ending the following year. "I'd been going nonstop since I was 8 years old," Jonathan explained to People in 2013 of his decision to exit the series. "I wanted to go to school, to travel and have a bit of a break."

He'd go on to study at Harvard, Columbia and St. Andrew's University in Scotland, admitting he enjoyed the anonymity of just being another college co-ed after spending years as the teen idol of the moment. 

"To sit in a big library amongst books and students, that was pretty cool," he told People. "It was a novel experience for me."

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