“You become more forgiving”: The New York actor, now 69, speaks on overcoming “the weirdness” of seeing himself on ‘The Waltons” and beyond.
Richard Thomas, better known to ‘The Waltons'” fans as John Boy, won over millions in his tenure on the classic drama. While considered family entertainment, the rural Virginia-set narrative tackled a manner of heavy issues. All came in service to the period piece’s recap of some of America’s most remarkable times: The Great Depression and World War II.
Thomas gave his all as John Boy, often in the form of the heavy dramatics each episode called for. For many actors, this is something they’ll never revisit themselves, let alone indulge in watching. As time goes by, however, Richard Thomas has found himself able to do so. Even with a smile.
“I think most actors are very self-critical actually…. And I don’t know many people who enjoy looking at themselves,” Thomas tells Dove.org in his revealing interview.
“I don’t know any colleagues, friends of mine, who enjoy watching themselves. I mean it’s a very unnatural thing to do, it makes you very self-conscious,” he reiterates.
Many actors, Thomas included within his younger days, loathe the idea of seeing their performances. It’s an odd, powerful form of self reflection that sparks a great discomfort. Or perhaps it does for the more grounded of actors. And Thomas, as the trade’s interview reveals, is certainly a grounded fellow.
“It takes time to get over the weirdness,” says ‘The Waltons'” Richard Thomas
Specifically of his tenure as John-Boy on “The Waltons,” and on the acting of his younger self, Thomas says “It takes time to get over the weirdness.”
Yet as time passes, he has grown fond of being able to look back on the time capsule that is ‘The Waltons.’ The show serves as such with a certain duality. It’s a peak into the troubles Americans faced during a deeply difficult period in world history. For Thomas, however, it also serves as a chronicle of himself as a young man.
“The more work you do the more objective you can be as you look at things,” he clarifies. “That first encounter with yourself in a new role on screen, on television, is very disturbing and it takes some time to put a little distance between you and the performance before you can really just look at it and say, ‘Oh, that was nice’ or, ‘There I was at that age doing what I did and I wish I was a little more polished actor at that time, I wish I wasn’t so over-expressive’ or whatever it is that any particular actor feels about himself,” he explains.
Richard Thomas would go on to further dramatic works – both on film and the stage. His Hallmark Channel work remains particularly prominent in his career, with dramas like Time after Time and Wild Hearts serving as starring credits.
Through it all, ‘The Waltons” star says “You become more forgiving.” But it’s about more than just seeing yourself. For Thomas, it boils down to being “willing to say, ‘Eh, that wasn’t so great’ and it doesn’t sting like it used to.”
In fact, Richard Thomas doesn’t see his time as John Boy as “a curse” at all. Instead, for the 69-year-old, it has become “a blessing.”