Being a child star is a ton of pressure, but Family Affair actor Johnny Whitaker didn’t mind it because of his large family. Before Johnny Whitaker played Jody on Family Affair, he appeared on Gunsmoke shortly after the sitcom premiered. As just a kid, Whitaker was in pretty high demand in the entertainment industry.
In Gunsmoke, Whitaker played a young boy in a family at their lowest point after a drought upends their lives. Just because it was a minor character, that didn’t mean he didn’t stand out. Whitaker played the part very well for his age just as he did on Family Affair. He gained a special amount of traction from the kids watching at home and appeared in multiple films and shows after that.
According to Me TV, He appeared in Gunsmoke again around the same time Family Affair ended. At this point, Gunsmoke was becoming huge and production wasn’t holding back. It gave Whitaker an even bigger platform and at that point was totally booked.
But despite all of this, Whitaker apparently didn’t mind his childhood when looking back. While a lot of former child stars often feel isolated from their peers and like they missed out on something crucial, Whitaker had a fairly “normal” life when he wasn’t working. He always got to return to his family, which consisted of 8 other siblings who didn’t treat him differently.
His mom noted in an interview with The Des Moines Tribune in 1971 that the big family helped keep him grounded and kind. She described his relationship with his siblings as is “built-in protection against an abnormal life.”
The ‘Family Affair’ Actor’s Favorite Childhood Role Was in a Movie Musical
While Johnny Whitaker had plenty of acting opportunities to choose from, his favorite childhood role was in the Tom Sawyer movie musical. At least, that’s how he felt when it came out in 1973. At this point, Whitaker was around 14 years old. In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, he explained how he felt like he got a lot of fun time with the cast and crew on Tom Sawyer.
“All the kids of the guys who work with the lights and props and things — they’re called the crew — they all lived in the same apartment house with us. And when we got back from shooting at 5 o’clock each day, we had a regular football game, mostly touch,” he described. He loved having the break from the hard work of filming.
“Movies are mostly hard work; playing football is a lot more enjoyable,” he continued.
Whitaker went on to take a break from acting after his childhood before continuing his career in the entertainment industry in the 2000s. His last credit was in an episode of the documentary TV Therapy where he talks about his career.