‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Reflects on Success of the Classic Series

by Caitlin Berard

Throughout his nearly 70-year career, Richard Thomas has earned some truly impressive roles. In addition to his most recent project, playing Nathan Davis in Ozark, Thomas also appears in Blue Bloods, Chicago PD, Law & Order, and the 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King’s It. His most iconic role by far, however, is John-Boy Walton in the classic TV series The Waltons.

Over the course of 26 years, Richard Thomas appeared in a variety of Waltons productions as the eldest child of John and Olivia Walton. And though his final John-Boy role came in 1997 for the TV movie A Walton Easter, the character remains beloved by fans across the country to this day.

For Richard Thomas, the enduring success of The Waltons is nothing short of miraculous. Though he’s always loved the series, he never expected it to remain popular for half a century. In a recent interview with Parade, Thomas expressed his sincere pride and admiration for the show and its lasting impact.

“I cannot even believe that the half-life of that part is so extraordinary,” Richard Thomas said. “I’m glad because I loved the show. I’m proud of it and it did so much for me, of course. It did everything for me.”

“I love the association and people who watched it as kids and now watch it with their kids or grandkids,” he continued. “It’s become sort of a generational experience. It just continues to amaze me the long-lasting effect of that show, and the affection that people have for it. It’s a real blessing. It gives me a lot of happiness.”

‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Reveals He Was ‘The Farthest Thing’ From John-Boy

To audiences around the world, Richard Thomas was John-Boy Walton, the idyllic young man always willing to help his parents, siblings, and neighbors. For the Waltons star, however, this expectation was exhausting, as he was nothing like John-Boy in real life.

In reality, Richard Thomas was just like any other young actor in the big city – rebellious, and simply trying to find his place in the world. “I was a misbehaving young actor in New York,” Thomas explained in a 2016 interview with the Archive of American Television. “So I was the farthest thing from that kid. Inside, no, but my way of talking … I mean, I’d swear, I’d cuss like a sailor. I was raised backstage, I had a whole other sensibility going.”

“And [fans] always expected this thing of you,” he continued. “I mean, I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘My husband has modeled his life on your character and who you are. I’m sure you’re this way, you’re a good this, you’re a good that, you believe in this, and you believe in that.’ It’s amazing the things that people [attribute] to you based on a character you play. It’s crazy.”