He’s a smart guy, du du, du da du du du! Tahj Mowry is ready to reprise his role as T.J. Henderson — and perhaps reveal his Smart Guy character’s full name for the first time.
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“That’s a really funny thing that people will ask me,” he exclusively told Us Weekly while promoting his new film, Welcome Matt. ”They never said what it is. It’s just T.J. [At the time] I just went with my real name is Tahj. And the first letter is T and last letter is J. I got to write this down in my notes [for the revival].”
Mowry, 34, is currently “very busy” working on a new version of the beloved sitcom, which initially ran on The WB for three seasons from 1997 to 1999. Viewers last saw T.J. as a 10-year-old genius who jumped from elementary school to high school, but Mowry describes the vision of the new show as a “Smart Guy 2.0.”
“This isn’t something that I want to rush because I don’t want the fans coming at me. I want this to be, again, this is where we’re seeing T.J. and the family and new characters now, this is where they are now. And I want it to be something that can be a show that lasts for multiple seasons. It’s got to have the right parts, the right character element. It’s got to have everything perfect to where it can last, not just a one episode type of thing,” he explained to Us. “I was and still am very busy getting all that situated. It’s a long process. Everybody’s schedule has to line up.”
The Full House alum starred alongside John Marshall Jones (Floyd Henderson), Jason Weaver (Marcus Henderson), Essence Atkins (Tasha Yvette Henderson) and Omar Gooding (Morris L. “Mo” Tibbs) on the series.
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“No one’s attached yet, but you know, if all goes according to plan, you will see the entire cast back in and then bigger than ever. The take I sort of came up with is a way to sort of blend the old with the new,” Mowry continued. “It’s going to be the Smart Guy that we all grew up on and love still to this day, but it going to have aspects of it that are for the new generation as well. Patience is a virtue, but it’ll be worth the wait. We’re working lots of Zoom calls and [discussing] over quarantine. We’re going to get it done.”
Although the project is “in the very beginning stages,” Mowry confirmed that it does have a “possible home” and a writer is already attached. But for now, the actor is just happy that the original show has made its way to the Disney+ streaming service.
“No one does it better than Disney. No one shows a good message like Disney does. And Smart Guy did that,” he said. “It’s just so amazing to see that it’s still affecting people and new generations are watching it on Disney+. And it’s just sort of jumped around. It went from the WB to Disney owns the show. Then it went to Disney Channel. It was on MTV for a while. Now it lives on Disney+, which is the best streaming platform ever. It’s my favorite. It’s an honor.”
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Smart Guy was unexpectedly canceled when it initially went off the air. “It definitely was a surprise to us all. It was doing very well. But you know, TV and network television is its own thing and sometimes shows don’t fall into the right time slots or the right pocket for the new shows that they’re trying to do,” Mowry told Us. “A lot of the times, you’ll never fully understand what’s going on behind the curtain, but it was definitely a surprise.”
Despite ending too soon, the Baby Daddy alum has always been proud that the show featured serious topics that could make an impact on young fans.
“We had an underage drinking episode. I knew that we were going to help people and that people would get a good message. Parents can sit down and watch this with their kids and have a conversation afterward. And that was the main thing. But obviously, each episode was still so fun, and they kept the environment light for me the entire time. It was never uncomfortable in that sense, as far as subject matter goes,” he recalled. “We [also] did a strangers on the internet episode, which was a huge deal in a multi-camera television world. That’s not something that is normal to do, but it obviously was something that should have been spoken about. It’s an important issue. I remember that being a big deal.”
He added: “That was the beauty of Smart Guy. As a primarily African American cast that was not only a funny show but was speaking about important and uncomfortable issues. … I think every Smart Guy episode sort of has that message at the end.”
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As Mowry continues to iron out details on a revival, he also currently stars in Welcome Matt, which depicts a writer/director who stays indoors for over 400 days after suffering a traumatic experience that makes him afraid to leave his apartment. The Leon Prince Jr.-directed film was an official selection at the 2021 Pan African Art & Film Festival. “I really enjoyed this seamlessness of the comedy and drama. It sort of jumped around between the two,” Mowry told Us. “I wanted to show the other side of me that I haven’t really gotten the chance to show, especially in film. So it kind of had the best of both worlds for me and the character was complex. He was layered. I also knew it was going to be a challenge because a lot of the movie is just Matt alone on screen.”
For Mowry, it was also a chance to bring awareness to mental health. “It’s not spoken about already and enough, but especially amongst men and especially in the black community,” he told Us. “I think the beauty of this film is that there’s a little bit of Matt in everybody, especially after us as a world is going through this crazy past year that we had with the pandemic, fear of going outside and multiple ways of getting sick, and social injustice as well. I think people will be able to see a little bit of themselves in him, even if it’s not exactly what he went through.”
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