‘The Waltons’: Richard Thomas Explains How His Career ‘Trajectory’ Changed with Show

by Taylor Cunningham

Before Richard Thomas landed the role of John-Boy on The Waltons, he was already a star. But acting in the wholesome family drama took his success to a “whole other degree.”

When Richard Thomas began his six-year stint on The Waltons, he had been working in the film industry for over a decade. The actor got his start in As the World Turns when he was five years old. And after, he went on to star in a long list of movies and series as he grew up.

When Thomas was 20, he portrayed Joshua Arnold in the Golden Globe-winning war drama Red Sky Morning. And his performance caught the eye of Walton’s showrunner, Earl Hamner Jr., which of course led to his run on the series.

So, The Waltons did not give the actor his start in Hollywood, but it certainly helped his future. During an interview with Blue Ridge Life Magazine, Richard Thomas said that his career was already “moving up, and looking good” before he became John-Boy. But the series changed his “trajectory.”

“I had been working my whole life, obviously. I had been working since the late 1950s,” he said. “It didn’t hand me my career by any means. Things were already going very well for me.”

However, the iconic series made him a full-on celebrity. By the time he left the show, he was being offered roles in blockbuster hits. And to this day, he’s still working with A-list celebrities. In fact, he’s starring alongside Sandra Bullock in the upcoming film The Unforgiven. So, Thomas is grateful for his role in The Waltons.

“There’s no question that once you get cast in a network series, and the series becomes a huge hit, then you go into a whole other degree of successful celebrity. So in that sense, you know, I was kind of on the platform for it,” he continued. “And the Waltons just sort of took it to the next level.”

‘The Waltons’ Creator Said He Would Never Marry Before Meeting His Wife

As a young man, The Waltons creator Earl Hamner, Jr. imagined a perfect life without the “burden” of a family. But his idea of perfection changed when he met his would-be wife, Jane Martin.

“I resolved to never get married. Life was too full to be burdened with children, responsibility, and routine. I would write more books. I would travel,” he shared in his book The Avocado Drive Zoo.

But one fateful night, Hammer’s friend introduced the bachelor to Jane Martin—and Hamner was a goner at first sight.

“The earth moved,” he recalled. “She was blonde. She wore her hair in a bun. Her eyes were blue and when she smiled the whole room was illuminated.”

Hamner and Martin said “I do” in 1954 and had two children together.