‘The Waltons’: Richard Thomas Spoke Out on Why Directing Episodes of Show Was ‘Scary’

by Joe Rutland

Actor Richard Thomas was able to provide hours of TV entertainment in front of and behind the camera while working on “The Waltons.”

Spending time, though, as a director for one of CBS’s hit dramas could become a bit unnerving at times. Thomas, who portrayed John-Boy Walton, talked about those times in an interview with Dove.com.

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

Thomas directed five episodes of “The Waltons” before leaving the series in 1977. He first appeared as John-Boy in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” which ended up being the pilot for the series itself.

Richard Thomas Has Wealth Of Experience Before ‘Waltons’

But Thomas also had a lot of experience on the TV screen before “The Waltons.” He’d secured guest-starring roles on shows like “Night Gallery,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “Bonanza,” and “Medical Center.”

Thomas also mentions a specific episode that he considers one of his favorites.

“There were so many that I was fond of,” he said. “The other day we were visiting my daughter in Los Angeles and this old episode, The Hunt, which was actually the very first one we shot but the second one that aired, was on.

“It brought back so many memories and it was such a good show in so many ways,” Richard Thomas said.

The episode features John-Boy taking his first trip hunting with father John Sr., portrayed by Ralph Waite, and some friends. Soon, John-Boy comes to find out that he doesn’t want to kill anything. But John Sr. comes under attack from a bear. At that time, the younger Walton decides to save his father’s life.

Thomas Doesn’t See Being Known As John-Boy As Curse

Sometimes, actors find themselves seen by other producers and directors fitting one role. They are not allowed to get another chance to play a different type of character.

Their singular role sort-of locks them into one point of view in the entertainment industry. It can upset these actors and leave them unable to work regularly anymore.

Richard Thomas, though, continues to find work all these years after playing John-Boy Walton. In his viewpoint, the role of John-Boy does not put a curse on his career.

“Oh no,” he said in an interview with Smashing Interviews Magazine. “It’s just a blessing. It’s wonderful. There are challenges with every way of life, but if you’re an actor, and you’re lucky enough to create a role that has that kind of an impact, then it’s a good day’s work.”

It’s been a great career for Thomas and his acting life remains active and vibrant to this very day.