‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Was a Role Model for Ron Howard

by Joe Rutland

It’s interesting to see how The Waltons star Richard Thomas turned out to be a role model for actor-director Ron Howard at one time.

As you may know, Outsiders, Thomas played John-Boy Walton in the 1970s family drama. Howard was a child actor on The Andy Griffith Show before joining Happy Days in the mid-1970s.

Let’s take a look at this role model business thanks to an article from MeTV.

Howard, just days before Happy Days made its debut on ABC, starred in an episode on The Waltons called “The Gift.”

In the episode, Howard’s character is dying from leukemia. Now Thomas had to cry on cue in one scene. Howard admired Thomas for his work.

Ron Howard Had A Lot of Admiration For ‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas

Howard talked about Thomas in a 1974 interview with The Boston Globe.

“I have tremendous admiration for Richard,” Howard said. “It was quite a thing playing with him. He had to cry in a scene with me, then he cried again for my benefit when I was doing a closeup. I never had anyone do that before.”

Also, there was a contrast between their shows. Most people connected Howard with the Griffith show, a piece of American nostalgia TV. Thomas, though, was in a serious family drama.

These days, both shows are available through the magic of reruns. The Waltons and Happy Days both had lengthy runs. Thomas and Howard would leave their shows before the final episodes.

After their TV time, Thomas returned to stage and film work. Howard went on to his childhood dream of becoming a film director.

Thomas Reflects On How His Career Trajectory Changed AFter Being in TV Show

Looking back upon his career, a Hollywood storyline doesn’t quite follow Thomas.

There’s no doubt, though, that his time on The Waltons helped pave the road to future success.

Still, Thomas said in a chat with Blue Ridge Life Magazine that his career was “moving up, and looking good.” That was before his turn as John-Boy happened. Thomas said the series changed his “trajectory.”

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

Yet the show’s success turned Thomas into a celebrity.

He’s starring with Sandra Bullock in a film called The Unforgiven.

The one-time Walton family member said, “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.”