‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Opened Up About Filming During Divisive Times

by Lauren Boisvert

In a 2018 interview, “The Waltons” star Richard Thomas spoke about filming the beloved show in divisive times. “The Waltons” aired in 1972, 5 years before the end of the Vietnam War. Woodstock was 3 years earlier, and the culture was free love, psychedelics, music, and war.

Then “The Waltons” came along, and presented a look inside a typical working class family in Depression-era Virginia. The show quickly became a favorite of the time, and continues its legacy into the present day.

“We were in the beginning of an incredible period of divisiveness, generational, political,” Thomas started. “We were kind of co-opted politically as a show that represented good American values.”

Thomas also spoke about how “The Waltons” brought people together. He began, “Even though there was strife and there was dissension there was always healing and the idea that we were all in it together.”

According to Thomas, he spoke to prisoners of war who used to call out to each other while captured in the same fashion as the family used to say goodnight to each other at the end of every episode. “The Waltons” was truly inspiring, not as a show about “good American values,” because that’s not was the show was really about. “The Waltons” wasn’t a symbol of religion or values or decency. It was just a show about a family trying their best in tough times.

As Richard Thomas has said in previous interviews, “we were just about a family of people who was just trying to make it as a family in the society. We didn’t as a family – and Earl [Hamner Jr.] didn’t, as a writer – make us a symbol of anything other than what it takes to be a family.”

Richard Thomas on ‘The Waltons’ Being Seen as a ‘Symbol of Idealism’

“The Waltons” was just about a family; Richard Thomas has said that they all “bristled” at the fact that people took it to mean something that it didn’t.

In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Thomas explained why “The Waltons” wasn’t really a symbol of American idealism.

“Whenever any of us felt that we had to behave in a certain way, or that we were a role model of anything other than a human being … it was always a conflict,” he said. “We never wanted to be.”

He shared a few moments when people have come up to him. He said they assumed that he’s exactly like his character, John-Boy. “I was a misbehaving young actor who had been an actor in New York,” he said, “I was the farthest thing from that kid. Inside, no, but my way of talking […] I cuss like a sailor, I was raised backstage. I had a whole other sensibility going.”