‘I Love Lucy’: Why Little Ricky Actor Keith Thibodeaux Had More Fun on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

by Taylor Cunningham

Classic TV fans know actor Keith Thibodeaux as both the son of Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy and a good friend of Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. But while both shows gave the star a good dose of industry lessons, he much preferred his time spent in Mayberry.

As Thibodeaux told Mt. Airy News, “The I Love Lucy set was a wonderful set, great people. But there was a little bit more pressure,” while the other series let him relax and have fun, which is something a child star much prefers.

The Andy Griffith Show was a wonderful experience,” he said. “The set was more laid back, more country…they (the actors) were basically like they were on the show. Andy would play checkers with the make-up man…he’d often strum his guitar with the cast in the back. It was just a good, down-home set.”

However, Thibodeaux still gave props to I Love Lucy because it was there that he learned how to make it in Hollywood. During the same interview, he explained that the Arnanzes kept a very formal atmosphere. And the rules and expectations were stricter. But he has fond memories of playing with the stars’ children between takes.

Keith Thibodeaux Played Two Different Characters in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

On I Love Lucy, Keith Thibodeaux, who was then billed as Richard Keith, was the last of seven actors who played Little Ricky. Thibodeaux was famous for perfectly mimicking his on-screen parents’ comedic and quirky facial expressions, and the musings eventually gained him enough credit in the industry to land him roles in other shows such as Ben Casey, Route 66, and, of course, The Andy Griffith Show.

However, young Thibodeaux was never a series regular in Mayberry. The actor only appeared in 13 episodes, and he played two different characters along the way.

During his first appearance, Thibodeaux starred as Carter French in the installment titled One-Punch Opie. In the story, he served as a backup when Opie confronted his first bully. Then, he played Johnny Paul Jason, another pal of Opies, in the remaining episodes from 1963 to 1966.

And just like he remembered from I Love Lucy, playing with other kids on set made the experience all the better. When it came to The Andy Griffith Show, it was Ron Howard who became Thibodeaux’s fast friend. But unlike Lucie and Dezi Arnaz, that relationship didn’t carry offset.

“I was a couple of years older than Ron. We were great friends on the set, we’d hang out,” he recalled. “But I was just older than him, I didn’t really have a lot in common with him off the set. He was really a nice guy.”