For more than a decade, Two and a Half Men‘s Angus T. Jones was one of the most recognizable (and well-paid) faces on TV.
But just two years later, after 10 seasons of starring as Jake — the young and impressionable son of Jon Cryer’s character on the CBS sitcom — Jones, 23, was ready to leave his show and say goodbye to stardom.
“If you’d asked me a few years ago if I wanted to get back involved in the industry, I would have said, ‘No. Not at all,’ ” he says in the current issue of PEOPLE.
Jones was just 9 years old when he was cast alongside Cryer and Charlie Sheen on Men. A hit right out of the gate, Jones’s sitcom made him a household name — and very rich.
By the age of 17, the actor was making $300,000 an episode. But despite his ballooning paycheck, Jones insisted at the time that he was a typical teen.
“I go to school, I clean my room, I get in trouble,” he says.
But as Jones’s Men character graduated high school and started getting more adult story lines, the young actor found it increasingly difficult to reconcile his bawdy comedy with his newfound devotion to his Christian faith.
“I’m on Two and a Half Men, and I don’t want to be,” Jones said in a November 2012 interview with Seventh-Day Adventist filmmaker Christopher Hudson. “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that.”
Yet Jones would go on to issue an apology for his comments and continued to appear as a series regular on Men until the season 10 finale in May 2013. It was reported that he would guest-star on season 11, but he never made an appearance.
“I was very confident at that time,” Jones says of his decision to leave Men. “Going to college was something I was really, really excited about.”
Enrolling at the University of Colorado at Boulder allowed Jones to live “a normal existence,” he says. “I wasn’t the center of everyone’s attention, and that was nice.”
- For more from Angus T. Jones — including his current feelings about organized religion and the chances he’ll return to acting — pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Jones is currently “on a break” from school, but plans on eventually getting his degree. For now he’s back living in L.A. and enjoys spending time with his 10-year-old brother Otto.
“Getting to be a part of his life is one of my most favorite things,” says Jones, who is also excited about serving as president of entertainment at Tonite, an events company cofounded by Sean “Diddy” Combs’s son Justin.
“I got pretty doomsday with my thinking for a long time, but now I’m having fun and enjoying where I’m at.” Jones admits. “I no longer feel like every step I take is on a land mine.”