‘Home Improvement’: This Actor Was Originally Cast as Wilson

by Alex Falls

Home Improvement became one of the most popular sitcoms of the 90s and turned Tim Allen into a household name. The show was an instant success for ABC and Allen went on to become a major movie star with hits such as The Santa Clause and Toy Story. As popular as Tim Taylor became, one character was arguably even more popular. Faceless next-door neighbor, Wilson.

Wilson spent a lot of time in his backyard. He often peaked over the fence to offer sage advice to Tim or other members of the Taylor family. Many times, Wilson singlehandedly helped resolve the drama surrounding an episode. But Wilson’s face was always obscured in some way. Often by the garden fence, a mask, or some other comical cover. The idea behind covering Wilson’s face actually came from Allen himself. He had childhood memories of a neighbor whose face he never saw because the backyard fence always hid it.

Even though we never saw his face, Wilson was always played by the same actor. Earl Hindman portrayed Wilson throughout the show’s run and brought warmth and gentility to the role. As the show unfolded, we got to learn many interesting facts about Wilson. He was a widower, he had a Ph.D. in Forgotten Languages and Culture.

Hindman acted in many other roles where he got to show his face. His credits include The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and the TV series Tales From the Darkside. These were small roles, so viewers generally had no idea what he looked like until he finally got to reveal his face in the Home Improvement finale.

Home Improvement’s Original Wilson

Most actors would be mortified to have to hide their faces on a major TV sitcom. In fact, Hindman was not the first actor cast as Wilson. The original actor took major issue with the running joke.

Originally, John Bedford Lloyd was cast as Wilson. Lloyd was best known for roles in James Cameron’s The Abyss and the cult horror film C.H.U.D. Home Improvement co-creator Matt Williams recalled in the making-of documentary, The Story Behind: Home Improvement, that Lloyd was the frontrunner and states he was made aware of the running joke that his face would be constantly obscured.

However, once Lloyd received the script for the pilot, he became furious to learn his face would never be shown. He immediately backed out of the project which opened the door for Hindman to take on his defining role.

The recasting worked in the show’s favor. Lloyd and Allen are close in age. But Hindman was a decade older than the star. This helped paint to character’s wisdom and it projected a calmer air.

Home Improvement went on to run for a successful eight seasons. Lloyd still kept busy throughout his career. He went on to take roles in projects such as L.A. LawPhiladelphiaSuits and Ozark.