Over a decade before his death in 2016, Earl Hamner would give a remarkable four-hour interview with the Television Academy. Within, the iconic writer and producer would touch heavily on one of his proudest achievements: beloved television classic, ‘The Waltons.’
It’s no secret to fans of the show that Hamner wrote the central character of John-Boy as a counterpart to himself. And thanks to the Television Academy’s interviewer, Jennifer Howard, we know far more about what that experience was like for ‘The Waltons’ creator.
“How much were you and the character of John-Boy alike?” Howard asks of the character, played famously by actor and director Richard Thomas.
“Well we’re both good looking,” Hamner immediately quips with a laugh, before answering earnestly.
“I think there’s a sensitivity there: he as an actor, and I as a writer,” he begins of the parallels between himself and Richard Thomas. “A sense of decency in both of us, too, for the world. An affection for people. A dedication to our work. Just nice guys,” he laughs again.
All in all, Hamner cherishes Thomas’ portrayal of “himself” on-screen, calling him a “gifted actor and a nice man.”
“Richard and I became good friends,” he continues of the John-Boy actor. “We’re still friends! It’s incredible now to see him as a grown up… Because I think he was about… sixteen or seventeen when we started working together.”
‘The Waltons’ Richard Thomas Modeled John-Boy’s Speech after Creator’s
As for Thomas’ performance as John-Boy in particular, Hamner delights in several memories.
“I noticed something that Richard used to do… Because my speech is – even though it’s odd – still has smatterings of Virginia in it,” Hamner smiles. “We would be talking, and then he would go on stage. And I would hear him adapting something so that it sound like the way I spoke.”
‘The Waltons’ creator also reveals how shocking it was to him – alongside the audience – to see Richard Thomas replaced in Season 5 by Robert Whiteman.
“Richard left at the end of the fifth year, I think it was, because he was getting typecast. And I think it was limiting his future to be so identified as this one character,” Hamner laments.
“I was desolate to lose him. But I think it was best that he were to move on.”
Watch Earl Hamner’s Full Interview:
For far more from Earl Hamner’s ‘Waltons’ tenure, view the entirety of the show’s segment courtesy of the Television Academy Archives below: