Reunion: 'Home Improvement'

Debbe Dunning (Heidi Keppert)
The role of a Tool Time girl not only put Dunning on the map but also gave her a lifelong friend in Tim Allen: The sitcom's leading man was the one who made sure Dunning went from a recurring player to a series regular — and permanent member of the Home family — during the third season (she took over from the original Tool Time girl, Pamela Anderson, who was not available for EW's Reunions shoot). ''Tim is amazing and a man of his word,'' Dunning, 45, recalls. ''If anyone got upset or threatened to quit, he went after them and they'd be back. He always kept us together.'' Dunning is still acting (she'd kill for a spot on Dancing With the Stars), and she gets recognized in the unlikeliest of places. ''I was floating down the Salt River [in Arizona] last weekend, and sure enough, a guy offers me a beer and says, 'I know you from somewhere!'''

Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor)
Bryan went on to book plenty of guest spots on shows like ER and Buffy the Vampire Slayer after Home Improvement, but the 29-year-old realized that he'd prefer to be a ''painter, not the paintbrush,'' so he began his own production company, Vision Entertainment Group. His most recent accomplishment was producing the indie drama The Grief Tourist with Michael Cudlitz and Melanie Griffith. ''Most people look at child actors and have these ideas that they have a rough life,'' says Bryan, who stayed friends with Thomas after the show. ''To be honest, I've looked at it as such an opportunity. Even moving forward with what I'm doing now, I walk into a room with a hedge funder and I'm immediately validated. I don't have to sit there and explain what my background is. They see it in front of them.''

Taran Noah Smith (Mark Taylor)
After Smith gave his last performance as Tim's youngest son, Mark, he fled Hollywood and didn't look back. ''It was pretty exciting to leave it behind and do other things,'' says Smith, who started on the sitcom when he was only 7 (he's now 27). And try things he did: First he began a food company for vegans, then he became an installation artist for big events like Coachella (''I made temples out of trash''), and then he helped his dad build energy-efficient water purifiers that are now used overseas by the military. But he never forgot his onscreen family — and not just because he continues to receive residual checks every three months. ''Everyone looks the same, just a little thicker,'' Smith says about the photo shoot. ''It's like a high school reunion.''

Originally posted Oct 07, 2011 Published in issue #1176-1177 Oct 14, 2011 Order article reprints