‘The Waltons’: Richard Thomas’ John-Boy Accent Came From His Childhood Summer Experiences

by Katie Maloney
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Playing a country boy growing up in Virginia came naturally to Richard Thomas. Here’s how his childhood influenced his character on The Waltons.

Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy on The Waltons grew up in Manhattan, New York. His parents were dancers with the New York City Ballet and they owned the New York School of Ballet. So, he was used to the hustle and bustle of city life. However, there was another part of his life that made it easy for him to portray his character on the show. Although he spent most of his time in the city, Thomas spent every summer of his childhood on his grandparents’ farm in Kentucky.

“My accent was easy for me because even though I was born and raised in Manhattan and I was a showbusiness kid, my father was born and raised in eastern Kentucky. And I spent all of my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm in eastern Kentucky,” said Thomas. “The dialect is slightly different from Virginia but that mountain dialect was something I grew up with. I had farm life every summer for three months. It was this weird existence of a New York kid as a country kid.”

Running around barefoot on his grandparents’ farm, riding horses, and living the country life allowed Thomas to truly become John-Boy on the set of The Waltons.

“So, that was easy for me. The confluence between me and the character was just kind of perfect. Because I knew that world. And I could speak it,” said Thomas.

Richard Thomas talks about his accent on The Waltons.

Richard Thomas Crashed His Car While Thinking of a Speech for His Award for The Waltons

Over the course of his career, Richard Thomas was nominated for several awards. However, one of the most memorable was his Emmy Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for playing John-Boy on The Waltons in 1973. Yes, it was memorable because he won one of the most coveted actor’s awards. But it was also memorable because of the incident that preceded his acceptance of the award. After learning that he was nominated, Thomas immediately started thinking about his acceptance speech. He was so distracted by thinking about his speech that he crashed his car. He adorably tells the story of the car accident during his acceptance speech. But he’s so giddy from winning he doesn’t seem phased at all that he “destroyed” his car.

Richard Thomas