‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Calls Himself ‘Lucky’ to Be Among the ‘Child Actor Survivors’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Think child actors have it made? Check out the cast of The Waltons. Richard Thomas, who portrayed John-Boy on the 1970s-era series, says he’s glad to have survived decades in the business.

Thomas was in a reflective mood when he spoke to Closer Weekly last December. The year 2020 was coming to a close and Thomas was nearing his 70th birthday.

“I feel very lucky to have managed to work in this crazy business for almost 62 years now,” Thomas said. “There are those of us — the child actor survivors — who have a certain understanding of what it takes. First as a child actor, then an adolescent, a young leading actor, a leading actor and now, at my age, a supporting character actor.

“For those of us who have gone through it,” The Waltons star said. “There is a wonderful shared experience.”

Thomas said he viewed Kurt Russell and Ron Howard as two actors who started acting as children and thrived as adults.

Russell is a few months older than Thomas. He started acting at age 12. In his early 20s, he signed a deal with Disney and acted in that studio’s movies throughout the 1970s. Russell is still very much in the acting scene. He was in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019 and just finished his second Christmas Chronicles movie on Netflix, alongside his real-life partner, Goldie Hawn.

Howard, 67, played Opie on The Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s, then Richie Cunningham on Happy Days in the 1970s. He switched to directing in the 80s and is responsible for a string of blockbusters. He won an Academy Award for A Beautiful Mind.

Thomas Has Stayed Relevant Since The Waltons

Meanwhile, Richard Thomas has worked steadily since he left The Waltons in March 1977. He was in 122 episodes of the show, so he’ll always be identified as John-Boy. Yet, he never suffered from typecasting. Thomas was the only one of The Waltons siblings to succeed in acting on TV and in the movies since the show left the air.

He recently was in The Comey Rule on Showtime. Thomas played Chuck Rosenberg, the chief of staff for James Comey when Comey was the FBI director. Coincidentally, Thomas also played an FBI agent in The Americans. And in December, Thomas narrated the PBS special Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir.

Thomas, like The Waltons, has a large family. He is the father of five children, including triplet girls. And he’s the stepfather of two kids. In all, he also has five grandchildren.

And yes, he still is friends with the cast of The Waltons.

“I’m very close to Michael Learned, who played our mother,” Thomas said. “She’s close to all the “kids,” but she and I are special friends. But, really, we all stay in touch. Everyone is included and it’s just a wonderful feeling to have that other family out there.”