Zachery Ty Bryan struggled to find acting work after starring as eldest son Brad Taylor in all eight seasons of Home Improvement. He opened up about the struggles, and the hard comedown from teen fame, in a new interview that details his child-star past and his present life, which is riddled with legal issues tied to domestic violence charges, DUIs, and an apparent cryptocurrency scheme.
Home Improvement starred Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson as Tim “The Tool Man” and Jill Taylor, parents to sons Brad (Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). Bryan said it was “was actually really difficult” to land more acting jobs after the Home Improvement series finale in 1999, despite the success of the ABC show.
“If you star in a TV show today, you can be in any film that you want, but back then, it was the polar opposite,” Bryan told The Hollywood Reporter. He said there was a stigma around TV stars back then that made it hard to break out into film roles. It was an odd juxtaposition with being one of the stars of an acclaimed TV series.
“You were stigmatized as a TV star, and no matter how good your audition, you were never going to be taken seriously. But I kept at it,” he explained. “On the same token, you might get turned down on a bunch of projects, but you could go out at night and hang out with your buddies at Mel’s Diner and everybody knows you.”
Still, he refers to the Home Improvement years as “some of the best days” of his life, even though he noted to the outlet that he started drinking at age 14 while working on the show.
“Back then, I was going to nightclubs and they would just let me in because I was the kid from Home Improvement,” he said. Now, he tries “to stay away from it. I’ve just kind of disengaged. I’ve got my routine, I’m not going out and getting lit, and that takes away a lot of problems.”
On-camera work continued to be hard to come by for the actor, leading him to switch to producing in the 2010s. The change was a welcome one for Bryan, who likened being an actor to being an animal in a slaughterhouse in continued remarks to THR.
“What moved me into producing is that it got to the point as an actor where I felt like I didn’t have control over my career anymore,” he shared. “As an actor, you’re like a cow going to the slaughterhouse, and you have to rely on so many people, from an agent to manager to lawyer. I figured I didn’t necessarily have to act anymore, there are other directions to go.”
He saw some success as a producer of indie films, getting some good reviews for films like The Kindergarten Teacher and Skin. As time went on, his career second act was free of the scandals one typically associates with former child stars, but that would eventually change. After appearing as a “Hollywood insider” for conservative news outlets like Fox News and Newsmax during the Trump presidency, Bryan made headlines in 2020 for arrests for domestic violence, a DUI, and for allegedly scamming people into investing in cryptocurrency.
Just two weeks after he and ex-wife Carly Matros announced their split in September 2020, Bryan was arrested and charged with felony strangulation, fourth-degree assault, coercion, menacing, harassment and interference with making a police report in Oregon. The charges involved Johnnie Faye Cartwright, not Matros. The felony strangulation charge was eventually dropped and he pleaded guilty to menacing and fourth-degree assault, both misdemeanors.
He had also made millions after investing part of his Home Improvement trust fund into Bitcoin. His First Kid co-star, Brock Pierce (the so-called “hippie king of cryptocurrency” who sat on the Bitcoin Foundation’s board of directors before the crypto crash in 2022), tipped him off on the Bitcoin prospects. Bryan then helped ag-tech startup Producers Market recruit investors. Some of those investors told THR they later felt swindled by Bryan and his crypto promises.
Allen told THR, “I don’t know what’s going on with him” in response to his legal turmoils. “Zach is a great kid who has grown into a complex man. All you can do is step aside and let somebody go through their process.”
“At a certain point, he deviated from the guy I know to somebody who is reacting to situations that I had nothing to do with and can’t control,” Allen went on. “I don’t know what happens when people get corrupted. You just don’t know.”