I would love to interview Tahj Mowry (and Tia and Tamera). The siblings continue to have thriving careers, and I love watching them on screen now as much as I did back in the day. Tahj was in so many of my favorite shows and movies growing up. In addition to appearing on Sister, Sister and starring on Smart Guy, he was one of the most adorable characters on Full House, Teddy. That wasn’t his first television role, though. He guest-starred on Who’s the Boss in 1990 and had other guest/recurring roles while on Full House. Sonic the Hedgehog fans would definitely remember him as the voice of young Sonic.
After Full House ended, Tahj had guest roles on Friends and Star Trek: Voyager and had already lent his voice to animated shows like Disney’s Aladdin TV series. The 90s were a busy time for the young actor. He first appeared on Sister, Sister in 1994 and returned in ’95 and ’97, playing T.J. Henderson that last time as a crossover with Smart Guy. The twins returned the favor and guest-starred on Smart Guy, too.
In the 2000s, Tahj was just as busy acting and had even more of a presence at the Disney Channel. Kids like me were watching him on Smart Guy reruns and seeing him take the lead in his own DCOMs. Kim Possible fans know and love him as the voice of Wade. And we can’t forget that Tahj took part in Disney Channel’s Circle of Stars for the “Circle of Life” project in 2003.
I am taking today to express my appreciation of Tahj because it is the 20th anniversary of his first DCOM, Hounded. And what’s also cool is that his second DCOM, The Poof Point, turns 20 in September. I say starring in two DCOMs in one year is pretty impressive. I don’t believe Disney aired them quite as much as some of the others, unfortunately.
Hounded is one of the DCOMs I have most enjoyed rewatching as an adult. It’s funny, it’s unexpected, it has that tugs-at-your-heartstrings effect that is so specific to the early-2000s brand of Disney Channel movies. Tahj plays Jay Martin, a kid who wants to go to an arts school instead of taking his brother’s chosen path of military school. Shia LaBeouf plays the headmaster’s son, Ronny, and he and his dad (Ed Begley Jr) use their privilege to steal any spot Jay could have had for a scholarship to the arts school. To make a long story short, these villains, the Van Dusen family, have a feisty Pomeranian named Camille, who accidentally goes home with Jay when he’s snooping on the Van Dusen property. It’s hard to quantify this DCOM because it’s just so different from the more formulaic ones. In a nutshell, it’s a madcap adventure between two brothers who grow closer by the end, but they’re in a rather odd situation since they accidentally kidnap a pet. In this movie, I am impressed by Tahj’s range of emotion. He has to be hysterical one minute and quiet and reflective the next. He’s cowering in terror from a dog, then he’s craftily plotting to return the dog to her owners. I’d recommend watching Hounded on Disney+ if you’ve never seen it or don’t remember it.
2001 was a great year for DCOMs. There were ten that year (as opposed to 12 in 2000 and seven in 2002). The Poof Point was sandwiched in between Jumping Ship (the sequel to Horse Sense) and Halloweentown II, which is a good spot to be in, if you ask me. The story with The Poof Point is that Edison “Eddie” Ballard (Tahj) and his sister, Marie Curie Ballard (Raquel Lee), must save their scientist parents from a de-aging experiment that will eventually make mom and dad go “poof.” By the way, the parents are played by Mark Curry and Dawnn Lewis, so it’s a little bit of a Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper reunion. I think it’s fun and rather suspenseful to watch the teenagers try to rescue their parents. In the process, Eddie and Marie witness their mom and dad going back through their lives until they are teenagers, children, and babies who almost disappear. This DCOM is not the only scientific-leaning project, but it’s not really anything like the others of its time. There’s no cloning like there is in The Other Me, no aliens like in Stepsister from Planet Weird. No other creatures like you’d remember from some of the many Halloween movies. I haven’t watched this one in quite some time, so that will be happening soon.
Let’s back up to 2000. I could never forget that Tahj was in a little movie called Seventeen Again (this is completely separate from Zac Efron’s 17 Again). In fact, it hasn’t been too long since I rewatched this film FREE on YouTube through an official channel. Why isn’t it on Disney+? Well, it’s not a DCOM. Seventeen Again originally aired on Showtime in 2000 and was edited for the Disney Channel not long after that. We may rightfully call this one an honorary DCOM. The channel aired it a healthy amount, and it was an event to look forward to for fans of Sister, Sister and Smart Guy alike. All three Mowry stars were together! Tahj is the smart little brother (sounds familiar), and Tia is the fashionable big sister trying to fit in at a new high school. Tamera’s role is where it gets interesting. Willie (Tahj) is doing an anti-aging experiment (also sounds familiar), but his formula winds up in the soap his grandparents use while visiting. Grandma and Grandpa are getting divorced, but once they’re transformed into teenagers, they fall in love all over again. Tamera is teenage Grandma, and Mark Taylor is teenage Grandpa. Tahj’s role isn’t quite as big as his sisters’ roles, but the movie is still known for including the three famous Mowrys.
There are two other roles I want to go back to. I appreciate Kim Possible and Tahj’s role in it, but I wouldn’t win any KP fandom awards. I want to rewind out of the 2000s and zero in on Full House and Smart Guy. The end of Full House was just two years before the beginning of Smart Guy. Tahj was in an impressive 14 episodes of Full House from 1991 to 1995. His character, Teddy, is one of Michelle’s best friends. Teddy’s arc is interesting because he and his family move away and move back to San Francisco a couple years later. Michelle, Teddy, and Denise (Jurnee Smollett) have an entire storyline in which Michelle must learn how to have two best friends. Lucky for Michelle, she lives in a house run by three best friends (you know, Danny, Joey, and Jesse). There are so many adorable Teddy moments on the series, but one of the most memorable would have to be when Teddy and Michelle stow away in Danny’s car because Michelle is lonely when her dad starts dating a lot. They sneak into the restaurant with Danny and Vicky and help themselves to dessert. In later episodes, Teddy continues to be a wonderful part of Michelle’s friend group, and I really think these kids are some of the coolest to recur on the series.
Smart Guy is what I’ve been thinking about the most over the past few days because I’ve been rewatching the entire series. I started to watch season one awhile ago, but once I got into season two last week, things really picked up in terms of character development and lessons. Now I’m into season three. I could write a whole post just about this show, and maybe I will sometime! The main thing I want to celebrate about this series is that it consistently feels real. Not gimmicky or overacted. The Hendersons come across as a real family in a loving home. Like Full House, Smart Guy runs without a mother in the family, but the personalities of the dad and the kids fill up the room as they live their lives. I love their house because it looks so cozy and inviting. I think the high school atmosphere is a good balance of education, fun, and typical teenage problems. Not all of the jokes work anymore, but plenty of them do. In my book, Floyd Henderson (John Marshall Jones) is a great dad who loves his kids while still disciplining them. Marcus (Jason Weaver) is a cool older brother who misses the mark sometimes but shows maturity and wisdom other times. Yvette (Essence Atkins) is Marcus and T.J.’s older sister, a beautiful fashionista with a good heart, a strong mind, and just the right amount of sass. Mo Tibbs (Omar Gooding) is Marcus’s best friend and basically another member of the Henderson family. He provides a lot of the comedic relief and surprises people with what he’ll do or say next. T.J. is, of course, the smart guy. Tahj Mowry gives the role equal parts cuteness, inquisitiveness, and growth over the course of three seasons.
T.J. is a genius who lets his ability get the best of him once in awhile. He might correct a teacher in front of the class or use words other people can’t understand. T.J. means well, but he still has a lot of growing up to do, no matter how smart he is. There are some serious episodes that put T.J. face to face with real world problems. One of the most severe (and frightening) is the Internet safety episode in the second season. T.J. and his friend buy bootleg games from someone in a chat room who they think is a kid. The seller isn’t just an adult–he’s an adult luring children into his video game basement and asking them to take off their clothes. I had forgotten about that episode until rewatching it over the weekend. Growing up can be scary and downright dangerous, and T.J. is lucky to have a dad he can go to in such an awful situation.
The hardest thing for T.J. is that he is a child living in a teenage world. People can’t understand what that is like for him, and they don’t always think of his feelings. He wants to fit in and be liked, which many viewers can relate to in some way. Yvette and Marcus really care about their brother’s wellbeing. They’re not perfect, but they help him with his problems and want him to feel loved. One of the first images of T.J. that comes to my mind is from the school mascot episode. That Piedmont penguin grows up a lot in a few seasons, and I wish the show had gone on awhile longer. Tahj and his brilliant ensemble cast made Smart Guy iconic. If you haven’t seen much of the show and you have a Disney+ subscription, I highly recommend you watch it. After all, it is Tahj Mowry Appreciation Day! 🙂