Though Tahj Mowry was only 5 years old when he played Michelle Tanner’s friend Teddy on Full House and only 11 when he starred as child prodigy TJ Henderson in the WB series Smart Guy, you won’t catch the now 26-year-old TV star with a DUI mugshot plastered all over TMZ; Tahj is one well-adjusted former kid star — and a very talented actor.
Just as he was receiving the good news that his new hit, ABC Family sitcom Baby Daddy, had been picked up for a second season, EBONY.com caught up with Tahj, who plays Tucker Dobbs on the show, to find out the secret to making it out of child-stardom sans scandal and successfully transitioning into an adult career.
EBONY: Baby Daddy is such a funny show! You’re playing a makeshift uncle to your roommate’s unexpected newborn baby girl. What drew you to this role?
TM: I’ve done a lot of roles in my career but this was the first role that I could create myself. Tucker is such a character, and I can have so much fun with him and have a real say in how I bring him to life. The show also has that old sitcom vibe to me that T.V. has been missing. It’s a very fast-paced, very witty show that has a real adult aspect that I enjoy. We deal with adult issues; that gives people a chance to see me in a different light, which is great.
I just love that it’s about men buckling down and taking care of a baby in the mother’s absence. It’s the TV version of [the 90s film] Three Men and a Baby at the heart of it. It’s always fun to do a remake and make it your own and add new character.
EBONY: You’ve played so many roles in your career, starting with starring roles in commercials at 4 years old. You’re so down-to-earth and you’ve transitioned seamlessly from child-stardom. You’ve done it right. What’s your secret?
TAHJ MOWRY: I think it’s definitely a testament to my parents. They definitely did the right thing with me for sure. Growing up, I was always in normal public school which is very important in my eyes. I think a lot of [child stars] are home schooled and so they don’t get [the experience of] having normal friends who aren’t actors. Whenever I wasn’t working, I had my butt back in normal school. I went from the [TV] set to football practice, from the set to track practice. My parents separated it and that let me know that TV life wasn’t my normal life; that was my job and my hobby. [The key is] being around normal kids! [laughs] Some child actors grow up crazy and it’s not their fault.
EBONY.COM: You also took a break from acting for a few years.
TM: I did. I took a break from acting in 10th grade and I told myself I was just going to play football and I ended up getting a [full] football scholarship [to Savannah State University]. I was [playing “Wade Load,” a character on the Disney animated series] ‘Kim Possible’ because it was easy, just voice over work. But I missed acting so much, so I figured I’d go back to entertainment.
Picking the right roles [is another really important reason as to why I’ve been able to transition]. My mom taught me that as well. [Casting directors] may try to pigeon hole you into certain roles. You can’t say yes to every role and you have to make people miss you. I don’t want people to get sick of me. But I’ve been able to come and go [in the industry as I please] and it’s been a blessing, but I give all the credit to my parents for that.
EBONY: The whole Mowry family just seems like such a tight-knit, positive family that we’ve been able to enjoy watching over the years.
TM: Thank you! We are. Our family is very tight. Just like any family we have our ups and downs but the love is always going to be there. I try to go to my parents’ house as much as I can. No matter how busy we are as a family we always make that time to have that ‘family together’ day because we want to. You can’t let work and life get in the way of spending time together.
EBONY: I’m just going to take it back to the Smart Guy, days for a minute. You wore those What Would Jesus Do? bracelets in every single episode of that show. Growing up and seeing a kid on TV doing that was a big deal for me and my friends who were wearing them too! Did you make a conscious choice to do that?
TM: I forgot about that! Yeah, growing up, our whole family had them and it was one of those things I wore and decided I am not taking it off for a TV show. I love Jesus and so it was a good reminder for me as a kid, you know, What Would Jesus Do? And it became this cool thing for other people to see. But I just wore it because I’m a believer.
EBONY: You’ve been in comedy roles your whole life, from Full House to your role on Desperate Housewives. What is your dream role?
TM: In the future you’re going to see me doing more film. I want to show the more serious side of me as an actor. I just want to be able to showcase my range. I love comedy and I will always love comedy; it’s my home, but I don’t just do comedy and I want to start doing roles that will surprise people. That’s what acting is all about: challenging yourself and doing things people wouldn’t expect.
EBONY: Now that your older sisters [Tia & Tamera] are married and starting families, is that in your near future as well?
TM: I definitely want a family in the near future; I definitely want to find my beautiful wife, but I feel like I need to get a girlfriend first! But I’ve definitely had enough of babies. I was at my sister’s baby shower recently and I was like, ‘damn, everything in my life is babies right now!’ Maybe once I’m done with Baby Daddy I will be ready for that. But definitely marriage in the near future.
Brooke Obie writes the award-winning blog DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @DCDistrictDiva.