"The Fisher King"
Magazine: TV Guide
Date: July 1-7, 1995 (Canadian Edition)
CALLING ALL CASTING AGENTS: HOME IMPROVEMENT'S JONATHAN TAYLOR THOMAS WOULD RATHER BE FISHING.
BY: BILL BRIOUX
Move over Macaulay Culkin: Jonathan Taylor Thomas is Hollywood's hottest new kid on the block.
Thomas is best known as one of those kids with the three names on the hit sitcom HOME IMPROVEMENT. His destinctive yet "typical kid" speaking voice was used to good effect as young Simba in "The Lion King." This summer, he has the title roles in remakes of "Tom Sawyer" and "Pinocchio." And to top it all off, the dimpled and diminutive 13-year-old is also the mall crowd's current heartthrob, with entire magazines devoted to his every whim. One special collector's issue, packed with poster-sized photographs, brags about it's "AWSOME JTT FEATURES: Jonathan Takes You To A Romantic Oahu! Jonathan At Home! JTT's Personal Fact File!
But here's the story they missed: Jonathan's Fishing Obsession! This well-mannered teen, conveted by Hollywood's casting agents, would rather be doing his own kind of casting. "I can't really put the rod and reel down," says Thomas, speaking on a cellphone from the Alabama set of "Tom Sawyer." "Everywhere I go, I carry my fishing rod. I even brought a bunch of them down here."
"He just showed an immediate interest in fishing," says Jonathan's mother Claudine, who helps guide his career and went with him to the "Sawyer" set in Alabama. She says he was hooked as a four-year-old.
Thomas, who says he releases "95 percent" of what he catches, lives about five hours south of what he calls the best fishing in California. "Ask any bass angler," he says, "Castaic Lake is one of the best bass lakes you'll ever find. It's a little unpredictable, but the ones you catch are really big."
Besides getting out into the great outdoors, Thomas relishes the relaxation and the privacy that comes with fishing. "It's a time to get away from the acting industry," he says. So although he has coaxed his young Home Improvement costars out onto at least one fishing trip ("It was fun," says Zach, "but I'd rather play soccer"), he mainly fishes with friends outside of show business.
One of those friends are 13-year-old Scott Morrison, who lives in Mississauga, Ont. They met back in grade 5 when their families lived in California. Both kids have fished from Mexico to Alaska; their adventures sound like Tom Sawyer and Huck on a Gold Card.
Scott's father, Hobby Morrison, has organized a rainbow trout hunt for the boys in B.C immediately following Taylor's "Tom Saywer" stint. Thomas knows the region, having fished in B.C last summer while filming "Man of the House" with Chevy Chase. "I dearly love Vancouver," says Thomas, who fished for salmon in the Fraser and Campbell Rivers, and also trolled for trout on several lakes in the B.C interior. "The sockeye salmon are really fun to catch," he says. "They are not as big as the king salmon or the chinook, but they fight really hard and I had a blast."
Morrison says that Thomas is a good angler, but the true test will come when they fly fish together in British Columbia. Morrison's dad insists that Taylor gets no red carpet treatment when the families get together, but Scott says that his pal's celebrity status "can get in the way sometimes. It can be a bother when so many people notice him," he says, "but when we go fishing we can get away from all that."
Thomas also escapes by watching t.v. fishing shows, especially those on offered Saturday mornings on TNN. "I get up early and sit there and just watch the fishing shows come on one after another," he says. His fishing show debut will most likely be on Karen Monaghan's upcoming series The Natural Angler. Toronto based Monaghan met Thomas on the Home Improvement set a few years ago, and later arranged an ice fishing trip to Lake Simcoe, Ont. She was impressed with his knowledge of the sport, and talked with Taylor's overall poise and maturity. "I'm 34, and there are days when he's right on my level." Monaghan says. "Yet when I took him ice fishing a few years ago, he horsed around with his 12-year-old friend and I thought, good- you've got both sides."
Born in Bethlehem, Pa., Jonathan, his parents and older brother Joel moved to northern California when he was about six. A brief modeling stint led to TV and a role as Greg Brady's son on The Brady's a short-lived sequel to The Brady Bunch. He was the first of the three Taylor son's (the others are Zachery Ty Bryan and Taran Noah Smith) cast for Home Improvement, which is still a Top-10 hit in the U.S. going into it's fifth season.
But Thomas' film career may be even hotter than Home Improvements star Tim Allen. He says playing Tom Sawyer is a lot of pressure, because you are playing an American icon, one of the great characters of literature, and that's a lot to live up to." His next project takes him to the Czech Republic where when he's not fishing (I'll bring my Czech Republic fishing guide") he'll be working with Acadamy award winner Martin Landau on a new live-action version of "Pinocchio."
Thomas say that he is humbled by all of his good fortune. "Once in a while I just have to give myself a good pinch to make sure that I'm not dreaming." he says while his family and TV costars have helped him to keep his feet on the ground, one thing that he didn't count on was becoming a teen heartthrob. "That's never easy to deal with," he says. "But you realize that your in the public eye and that's just part of the business that you really can't ignore."
Except on an early morning on a still river, under a clear blue sky, surrounded by hungry fish.
Thanks to Susan for sending this interview.