Jonathan Brandis was a former child star turned teen heartthrob, better remembered for his role as a young computer whiz on the submarine adventure show “seaQuest DSV.” Sadly, he was gone too soon.
In the best years of his career, a young Jonathan Brandis drove teen girls crazy with his intense blue eyes, blonde hair, and charming smile, and he received up to 4,000 fan letters a week, some with phone numbers attached to them.
Jonathan Brandis Dec.1993 in a Ventura Blvd diner in Los Angeles | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images
Still, when he would call his fans out of curiosity, they would yell into the phone, “It’s not you!” and then hang up. He found the situation hilarious.
Brandis was counting on “Hart’s Wars” to make his big comeback on the screens. But when his role was cut significantly short, he was upset and depressed.
Brandis was one of the teen actors in Hollywood whose early rise to fame eventually went wrong. He stopped getting roles in his mid-20s, and depression eventually took over, leading him to take his life way too soon.
Marco Sanchez and Jonathan Brandis From Sea Quest at a party for Aids Project Angeles at the Hollywood Athletic Club, June 22, 1994 | Photo: GettyImages
Here’s a look into Jonathan Brandi’s life, his movies and TV series, and his most notable relationship with another '90s star.
JONATHAN BRANDIS – BIO, EDUCATION, EARLY CAREER
Jonathan Brandis was born on April 13, 1976, in Danbury, Connecticut. He was the only child of Mary, a former teacher who then became his manager, and Greg, a firefighter.
Brandis started his career in the entertainment industry early on. He was 2 when a photographer discovered him and debuted as a model in a sales poster for Buster Brown clothing.
At 5, he started making commercials, appearing in ads for Kix cereal and Fisher-Price toys, among others. And a year later, he made his acting debut in the recurring role of Kevin Buchanan on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
Seeing his potential, his parents decided to move to Los Angeles when he was 9. Mary became his manager, and Greg bought a food distributorship.
Once settled in Hollywood, Brandis started to land small roles in series like “Kate & Allie,” “Sledge Hammer!” “L.A Law,” “Webster,” “Full House,” and “Who’s the boss?”.
Talking to People magazine in 1994, Jonathan Brandis recalled how those early jobs “taught me behavior, failure, success, discipline.”
“When I was a little kid, getting in trouble in class, the teachers would say, ‘Do you act this way on the set?’ And I’d say, ‘No, that’s a job,’” he said.
JUMP TO TEENAGE STARDOM
Brandis landed his first significant role on the big screen on the 1990 film “The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter,” and that same year, he starred on the Stephen King's “It” miniseries, where he gave life to the young stutterer, Bill Denbrough.
Two years later, it was his role as a boy disguised as a girl soccer player in the “Ladybug” movie that made him popular among teen girls.
“Girls really took to that,” he said at the time.
At 17, Brandis cemented his status of teenage heartthrob with his role as scientific prodigy Lucas Wolenczak in the Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi series “seaQuest DSV.”
That’s when the letters started coming, and when he needed three security guards to steer him through the crowds of young girls waiting to catch a glimpse of his figure at Orlando’s Universal Studios, where the series was shot.
He was constantly on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine, and a poll on Seventeen magazine named him as number 1 of the ten sexiest guys in Hollywood.
"I never perceived myself like this -- a teen magazine kid," he said in a 1994 interview. "As an actor, you just hope to continue working. Then when you start getting mail! I sure never knew it was coming. It's not something you prepare for."
RELATIONSHIP TO TATYANA ALI
Jonathan Brands and Tatyana Ali met through mutual friends at a Halloween party in 1993. And although he showed his interest in her, Ali was cautious because he was three years older.
Tatyana, also a child star, became famous for her role as Ashley Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” where she shared the screen with Will Smith.
Jonathan Brandis and Tatyana Ali at the premiere of "Independence Day" on June 25, 1996 | Photo: GettyImages
At the time, Brandis spend most time away from home, filming “seaQuest DSV” in Florida, but when he visited L.A, he would visit Tatyana at her home. Still, she was hesitant about his intentions until Brandis told her one day: “I’m going to stop coming over. And you’re going to miss me.”
“I was like, ‘Right,’” Ali recalled in an interview the did with People magazine in 1996. “He was right,” she continued. “I called him the next morning.”
They started dating in May 1995, and it’s not clear when they broke up, but, during their time together, they had to face some critics for their interracial love.
Tatyana Ali visits Hallmark's 'Home & Family' at Universal Studios Hollywood on November 13, 2018 | Photo: GettyImages
Although Ali admitted that the mean comments affected her, she said those reactions made nothing but bring her and Brandis closer.
LATE CAREER AND DEATH
After the end of “seaQuest DSV” in 1996, Brandis went on to take roles in television films like “Her Last Chance,” “Born Free: A New Adventure,” and the movies “Outside Providence,” “Ride with the Devil” and “Hart's War.”
According to reports from friends, after a dry spell and a decrease both in offers and popularity, Brandis was counting on “Hart’s War” to make his big comeback on the screens. But when his role was cut significantly short, he was upset and depressed.
On November 11, 2003, Jonathan Brandis took his own life at his Los Angeles apartment.
According to an LAPD report, Jonathan’s friends found him and immediately called 911. Paramedics then took the actor to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, but he died from his injuries the next day. He was 27.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org
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