Danny Pintauro from Who’s the Boss? Returns to acting after trauma

Previous Who is the boss? actor Danny Pintauro is staging a return to Hollywood with her first major role in 30 years: a part in a Lifetime Christmas movie.

But it was a sci-fi series that inspired him to revive his career, which had largely faded since his eight-season stint as a player. judith lightThe Son of on the ABC sitcom ended in 1992. While airing Star Trek: Discovery at his home in Austin last year, he saw the stars wilson cruz Y rap antonioboth openly gay, “had this beautiful kiss,” he says in the new edition of PEOPLE.

The moment resonated with Pintauro, 46, who describes himself as a big believer in fate and signs from the universe. He had been publicly forced out of the closet for the national investigator in 1997, a time when there were hardly any gay actors, let alone gay actors making out on TV. While he marveled at how much he had changed, Pintauro “was jealous,” he says. “It made me want to participate.”

He took it as a sign. “Something clicked,” she says. “I finally felt ready.”

For years I was not eager to return to the game. “I had a lot of trauma from my time after Who is the boss?he says. He became addicted to drugs, was diagnosed with HIVhe struggled financially and faced professional rejection time and time again.

He remembers thinking “maybe I was a child actor, and that’s all I was supposed to be.” But now he has the perspective of someone who has survived the worst and knows that better days await him. “The possibilities,” he says, “are out there.”

He was right to have faith. After telling her husband, Wil Tabares, 54, about his goal of returning to Hollywood, Pintauro quit his job as a vet tech, called his former manager, landed his first audition and landed a role in A country Christmas harmony, playing the best friend and assistant to a country singer (Brooke Elliott) who is trying to jumpstart her flagging career. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says about getting the first job she tried out for.

It had been decades since the New Jersey native had had that kind of luck. His late mother, Margaret, a hairdresser-turned-talent agent, and his father, John, who worked in a lumber shop, induced his only child to act from an early age. “Everything, I would get it,” says Pintauro: commercials, the horror movie Whose and of course, Who is the boss?

The hit comedy (at its peak it had 30 million viewers a week) about a housekeeper (tony dance) to a successful advertising executive (Light) made Pintauro a household name. But during the later years of the show when he was a teenager, the actor says, the producers “didn’t really know what to do with me.”

Although he hadn’t come out yet, Pintauro says his sexuality was obvious to others. “They didn’t feel like my character dating a girl was believable,” he says. So he got stuck with banal arguments like accidentally scratching a car. “I didn’t understand why,” says Pintauro, who thought: “They don’t want me to be here.” (Pintauro clarifies that the sentiment did not come from his co-stars, including Light, Danza, and alyssa milanowho were all “cool,” he says.)

At the same time, he had social problems at his Los Angeles school. “I just wanted to be a normal kid,” says Pintauro, who attended classes in the morning before going on set. Once his peers realized he wasn’t going to live up to a “celebrity vibe,” they brushed him off. “I had no friends,” he says. “So you have two instances where I just don’t feel wanted, and that stuck with me.”

When Boss Finishing his degree in 1992, Pintauro devoted himself to school and went to Stanford University, where he studied to become a veterinarian. By then, “acting was not in my realm of thought,” he says. But he failed chemistry and switched gears to the drama program.

Then came the call from investigator threatening to reveal his sexuality. Pintauro, who by then had already dated his friends and family, gave an interview to help control the narrative. “I’m trying to study, and all of a sudden I have to deal with this,” he says.

courtesy of the everett collection

Although he says he was initially “mad”, he calmed down after fans told him how much he inspired them after the article was published: “I still have a box of letters from people all over the country.”

After college, he moved to New York City, but struggled to find work as a theater director. He had used up much of his star-child savings paying for Stanford, so he found odd jobs acting in plays or waiting tables. He also mixed with bad people, partied in clubs and began using drugs. “He was lost,” he says. “A year goes by and I do a lot of meth.” During a sexual encounter under the influence of drugs, got HIV.

New York “became an ugly place” with bad memories, says Pintauro, who began taking medication to treat the virus. To start over, he returned to Los Angeles, kicked drugs without going to rehab, and tried to get back into acting.

Unfortunately, “auditions were very few and far between,” he says. Another blow to the ego: it was a joke in a 2003 episode of will and grace. When his representative contacted the program to have Pintauro appear, they turned him down. “I said, ‘Well, if you don’t invite me, I’ll buy my ticket.'”

He bid and won a supporting role at a charity auction. But after what he calls “months of escaping” from the show, he decided not to film, he says. “It brought back all that trauma of not feeling wanted.” He took it as a sign from the universe to leave show business.

Pintauro tried his hand at random jobs: manager at a PF Chang’s, casting assistant and sales consultant for Tupperware, that’s how he met Tabares at a Tupperware party in 2012. An attraction broke out and within two years they were married. “My husband,” Pintuaro says, “means the world to me.”

The couple settled in Austin, where Pintauro trained to become a veterinary technician. They weren’t rich, “we’ve always managed,” he says, but they were happy. “I certainly had a great life,” says Pintauro, who is healthy (his viral load is undetectable) and shares three rescue dogs with Tabares. “There was no reason to upset the balance.” Still, after seeing the Star Trek: Discovery kiss, Pintauro couldn’t stop acting out of his head.

Milano, his friend and former co-star, is thrilled that he’s coming back. “I’m so proud of Dan,” she says. “Not only for following his life’s dream, but even more for being a good person and staying true to who he is despite the hardships he’s faced.”

The two of you can share the screen again in the next Amazon Freevee Who is the boss? continuation series, which will center on the character of Danza and her daughter Samantha (Milano). When asked if he will show up, Pintauro is shy. “I’ve been involved in some conversations,” he says. But he’s also eager to prove that he’s not just the kid from the sitcom: “I can play all kinds of parts.”

Pintauro, who recently moved to the Los Angeles area with Tabares, is at peace with the idea that things won’t work out, but is confident that they will. “I can feel it in my gut,” he adds.

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A country Christmas harmony premieres on Lifetime on November 18.

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