‘The Waltons’: Richard Thomas Spoke Out on Show Replacing Him After Season 5 Departure

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

A popular adage advises that “all good things must come to an end.” This was true for one actor on “The Waltons” before the show ended its successful television run.

That actor was Richard Thomas. He famously played John-Boy Walton on the beloved show. However, a few years before the final episode of the show aired, Thomas left the cast. He talked about his decision to leave during an interview with Studio 10.

According to the news agency, Thomas had won an Emmy Award for his work on “The Waltons.” However, “in 1977 he decided to quit the series to pursue other opportunities.”

With Richard Thomas exiting the show, its powers that be decided not to write the character out of the series – as often happens when an actor wants to leave. Instead, show runners decided to recast the role of John-Boy Walton and carry on as if nothing had happened.

So, instead of seeing Richard Thomas as John-Boy, fans of “The Waltons” began seeing Robert Wightman play the role. And, unfortunately, the change was never really accepted by fans of the popular family drama. Wightman taking over “was something of a poison chalice,” according to Studio 10.

Richard Thomas also had the opportunity to share his thoughts about the situation.

“It was a strange thing to do,” Thomas said of the show’s decision to cast another actor to play John-Boy Walton. “Because it’s very hard for people to change their idea of who a character is, what he looks like, what he or she sounds like. And, I don’t know that it was a very successful shift.”

Richard Thomas Said He ‘Felt For’ Actor Who Replaced Him as John-Boy on ‘The Waltons’

Stepping into another actor’s shoes on a famous television series such as “The Waltons” has to be a difficult job. And, Richard Thomas – the original John-Boy Walton – said he felt compassion for the actor hired to replace him on the show after he chose to leave.

“I felt for Bobby (Robert Wightman) because he’s such a good actor and such a good guy,” Thomas told Studio 10. “I thought, ‘Oh, man is that a job I would have wanted to take? But, you know, it took guts and he did it.”

Interestingly, after he left “The Waltons” actor Richard Thomas went on to have a “Waltons-sized” family of his own. You can read all about that here.

You can watch Richard Thomas talk about his experience on “The Waltons” with Studio 10 below.