‘The Waltons’: Why John-Boy Actor Richard Thomas Received Script Days Before Rest of Cast

by Matthew Wilson

Though he didn’t stay for the entire run, actor Richard Thomas arguably became the face of “The Waltons” when it first aired. The actor cemented a place in pop culture and people’s hearts with his portrayal of John-Boy on the show.

Thomas sometimes got preferential treatment on the set too. According to co-star Eric Scott, producers often gave Thomas scripts days before the rest of the cast. In a 2011 interview with Media Village, Scott discussed why Thomas got his scripts early. And it had everything to do with the energy he brought to the set.

According to Scott, both Thomas and Ralph Waite had a lot of different ideas on how they wanted to approach scenes. Thomas often got his scripts early so he can work through some of his ideas. Thomas also directed several episodes like Waite, so it helped to be entrenched in the production side of things.

“He’d walk on the set and he’d have all these different ideas that he wanted to do. He was amazing. He would usually get a script a few days before the rest of us and when I say he worked on it, I mean he worked on it,” Scott said of his co-star.

And as a director, Scott said that Thomas always valued his co-stars as actors. In fact, he brought a lot of energy to the role behind the scenes.

“He allowed the technical side to just flow, organically,” Scott continued. “And I cherished his insight. He was the driving force on our show, and he had an incredible influence on it. And when he had the opportunity to direct, he brought along the same kind of gusto. He had ideas and knew our characters as well as we did. Our characters were very much like each of our personalities, and he knew those personalities well. Because we had such a large cast, the producers recognized early who we were as individuals, and set out to incorporate traits from our real lives into our characters.”

Richard Thomas on Directing

Meanwhile, Richard Thomas felt a little bit nervous about directing himself. The actor ended up directing five episodes of the show before he eventually left. When he stepped into the role, Thomas had to vanquish his anxiety.

“I directed some, which was scary for me because I had never done that before,” Thomas said. “But (it) was also exciting and satisfying.”

Meanwhile, Thomas thinks “The Waltons” was very much a product of the era. But that hasn’t stopped him from appearing in the upcoming reboot. Thomas will lend his voice to the production as the special’s narrator. It remains to be seen if the special can capture the same magic that the original had.