In this Television Academy interview, The Waltons‘ original John-Boy talks at-length about the show’s original scripts, and how they won a turbulent “child” over on the character.
After moving to Los Angeles, a young Richard Thomas would be cast as John-Boy Walton in the made-for-television movie The Homecoming. As fans know, however, the film would soon become one of the most beloved television series of all time: The Waltons.
In this November 2016 interview, producer Adrienne Faillace asks the storied actor how his transition from a film to television Walton child came to be. And it’s an emotional rollercoaster of a story.
By his own words, Thomas was beyond hesitant to do more television after finding success in film. If he were to do it, it would take some convincing. So when The Waltons was first pitched to him, the actor says the call came directly to him.
“They called and said they wanted to make it a series,” he shrugs in the 2016 interview. The “it,” of course, being The Homecoming‘s transition into a television property audiences would eventually know as The Waltons.
From Small to Big to Small Screen Again
Thomas, however, “wasn’t really interested,” he says confidently, because he was “making pictures” in Hollywood.
“Not that I wasn’t interested in doing television, obviously,” he notes of his illustrious small screen career prior, which includes everything from Bonanza to As the World Turns. Instead, The Waltons star says he “wasn’t particularly interested in tying myself up. Things were going well, I was free and making movies!”
Hilariously, Thomas also recalls what it was like making such life-altering decisions as such a young man. Or as the actor says, “a child!”
“My agent!” he exclaims at the time, “You know, they’re talking to a 20-year-old! A child! And the ‘child’ is saying ‘well I don’t know if I want to do a series!’ It’s crazy, right!?” he laughs.
In the end, however, The Waltons‘ producers would win Richard Thomas over. How?
“Well can we send you some scripts?” the showrunners said to their future John-Boy.
“Well yeah, sure, send me some scripts! I’ll be happy to read them,” Thomas recalls. And this is when everything changed for the young actor.
‘The Waltons’ Original Scripts Spurred Huge Emotional Reaction in Richard Thomas
“So I read the scripts… And they were just… They were fabulous!” Thomas lauds. “I mean, there was no way you couldn’t do it. In every story, the character was just so rich! And they were funny and touching… And I was just knocked out,” he cites of the John-Boy Walton material given to him.
“There shouldn’t have been any question anyway. But any misgivings I may have had or fears or what be… They were swept away.”
Thomas goes on to recount how “lucky” he was to have this “brilliant” part to play. As fans know, though, the actor would eventually leave after Season 5 of The Waltons over fears of being typecast. As a grown man no longer a “child,” however, Richard Thomas seems eternally grateful for the “gift” that was and is John-Boy Walton. The role did, after all, win him an Emmy and multiple other awards.
Waltons fans will want to watch the full interview segment below, in which Thomas delves even deeper into his days with the show, courtesy of The Television Academy: