Richard Thomas Talks Narrator Role in ‘The Waltons: Homecoming’

by Shelby Scott

We first met The Waltons when The Homecoming: A Christmas Story originally premiered in 1971. The late 20th-century film was soon followed by the long-running TV series The Waltons the next year. After that first season aired, audiences quickly became familiar with The Waltons’ narrator, Earl Hamner Jr. Hamner Jr. served as narrator for The Waltons for nine successful seasons immediately following the release of the holiday-themed film. However, interestingly, before scoring the role, the series’ star, Richard Thomas, thought he would be the one narrating the show. Fast-forward 50 years to the film’s reimagining, The Waltons: Homecoming, and Thomas is speaking out about taking on Hamner Jr.’s long-established role.

According to GoldDerby, Hamner Jr. performed all of both the film and the series’ original narration. So, in making The Waltons: Homecoming, Thomas, who played John-Boy Walton, said he felt Hamner Jr.’s presence the entire time.

“Earl’s voice is always in my mind,” he explained. “He was an enormously important person for all of us, and he was such a beautiful creator for that show.”

In speaking about his time on The Waltons in its entirety, Thomas added, “[Hamner Jr.’s] everywhere in my feelings about the Waltons, which are always fond and happy.”

Richard Thomas’s True Feelings About Vacating His Onscreen Role

After starring in The Waltons as John-Boy for about a decade, it’s interesting seeing Thomas depart his role in the remake. Further, audiences may have struggled to watch a new actor, Logan Shroyer, adopt Thomas’s long-held role. In contrast, the actor himself shared that “passing the torch” was actually an enjoyable experience.

In speaking with the outlet, Thomas said, “[Shroyer’s] a really good actor so he doesn’t [need] my help or anyone else’s.”

As he watched the younger actor adopt his role as John-Boy Walton, The Waltons star explained, “All you’re thinking is how wonderful that something that I did — the role that I did — could be handed down to another actor 50 years later. It’s a beautiful thing.”

How ‘The Waltons’ Shares Connects with Contemporary Social Problems:

Despite the fictive nature of The Waltons, the events within the classic TV show were heavily influenced by genuine problems. In addition to discussing the differences between The Waltons and Homecoming in relation to casting, Richard Thomas also shared his views about how the television series has withstood time. He spoke about parallels between its original air date and contemporary events.

Above all, he highlighted that The Waltons encourages unity and problem-solving. Altogether, the show shows audiences how to rise above social problems and connect with others in a more peaceful nature.

“When ‘The Waltons’ first came on the air,” Thomas explained, “there was so much division in the country.” A lot of negativity affecting Americans was due to Watergate and Vietnam. In contrast, he said, “The show came on the air with a feeling of unity and a sense that connection was more important than separation.”

Half a century later, those same values remain just as important. During the interview, Thomas claimed, “We are in a disastrously fragmented and conflicted place in our country.”