‘The Waltons’: Richard Thomas Explained Why Show Was Never to Be a ‘Symbol’ Except for One Idea

by Keeli Parkey

“The Waltons” continues to be a television show that fans return to again and again. It’s a show about family and struggling and making it through difficult times together. It provides inspiration to its viewers.

However, thanks to the show’s success and popularity, it has been used by some to promote their own agendas and ideologies. And, according to one of the show’s stars, it was never meant to be used in such a way.

“It’s all about projection. You’re just a big screen. … It’s all being projected on you,” Richard Thomas once said.

As fans of the show will know, Thomas played John-Boy – the oldest of the fictional family’s children – on “The Waltons.” He talked about the show during a 2016 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

One instance involved George H.W. Bush before he became the president of the United States, according to Thomas.

“I mean, I remember when – I think it was the senior Bush at a Republican convention at some point. He was the vice-presidential nominee. We were doing the show,” Thomas recalled. “And, he had been talking about America. And, he wanted an America (with) families like ‘The Waltons.’ He talked about it.”

These comments also frustrated one of the other actors on the show, according to Thomas. That actor was Kami Cotler. She played Elizabeth Walton on the show. She felt that Bush was using the show “for his political ends.”

Richard Thomas Said ‘The Waltons’ Was a Symbol of Only One Thing

This was just one example of people using “The Waltons” to make a point, according to Thomas.

“There was always a little bit of that thing going on where people wanted to use the show, um, to illustrate a point about public decency or the way television should be, you know,” the actor said. “There ought to be more clean shows on the air like ‘The Waltons’ – all that kind of thing.”

Thomas and Kami Cotler weren’t the only cast members of “The Waltons” who felt that the show shouldn’t be used by people to make a point. In fact, all of the cast members felt that way, Thomas said.

“To a man of us – and woman of us – we all were offended and bristled at that kind of stuff. ‘Cause we didn’t want … We were just about a family of people who were, you know, who were just trying to make it as a family and make it in the society,” Thomas said.

“The Waltons” was not meant to be a symbol for anything other than family working together to survive, according to the John-Boy actor. This was also the feeling of Earl Hamner, Jr. It was Hamner’s work that inspired “The Waltons.”

“We didn’t as a family – and Earl didn’t as a writer – make us a symbol of anything other than what it takes to be a family, you know, during difficult times,” Thomas said. “So, whenever any of us felt that our … that we had to behave in a certain way, or that somehow we were a role model of anything other than a human being, you know, that we stood for anything that could vaguely be considered politically, spiritually defined – that we stand for this – it was always a conflict. We never wanted to be that.”