High Achiever

updated 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

PLAYING A PINT-SIZE GENIUS ON the popular WB Network sitcom Smart Guy has made Tahj Mowry a TV star. But his mother, Darlene, and father, Timothy, retired Army sergeants, won't have him acting like one. "I've told the producers that if Tahj wants something to eat or drink," says Darlene, "he can get it himself."

Mowry is used to that. Having danced at the Oscars and in videos with Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey, he's a showbiz vet at 11. Of course he has had good tutoring. His twin sisters Tia and Tamera, 19 (he also has a brother, Tavior, 4), star in the WB sitcom Sister, Sister. "They always told me the key is to have fun," he says. "And if it's not fun anymore, then I shouldn't do it."

The sixth grader (he's tutored on the set) does have other options. He tap-dances, does a wicked Jim Carrey impression and dreams of a career as an actor, a football player "and maybe a dentist," he says. "Lately I've been taking good care of my teeth."

And business. Mowry was 7 when, after snagging bit parts on Who's the Boss? and Full House, he announced that he wanted his own TV show. Last April he got one. Smart Guy's premiere was WB's highest rated debut to date. "In addition to being self-assured and confident," says executive producer Suzanne de Passe, "he's talented."

Still, life at his family's fire-bedroom home in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley is refreshingly normal. Each week he gets $10 for cleaning his room and taking out the garbage. It's far less than his Smart Guy salary (which goes into a trust fund), a figure Mowry doesn't know. "I don't care," he says. "When you know that stuff, you get stuck-up."

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