Playing John-Boy on “The Waltons” brought actor Richard Thomas fame and success. However, just like other celebrities have felt over the years, that fame and success also brought challenges and expectations.
Thomas talked about this and more during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. The interview was filmed in November 2016 in New York City. During the interview, Thomas shared that the public often expected him to be just like the fictional character he played on “The Waltons.” This, of course, was not the case.
“I was a misbehaving young actor,” Thomas explained. “My way of talking – I cuss like a sailor. You know, I was raised backstage. You know, I had a whole other sensibility going. And they always expect this thing of you.”
So as years went on, Thomas found ways to demonstrate that he was not, in fact, John-Boy Walton. During the interview, he recalled one instance where a Christian organization asked him to do a reading. He agreed to do it. However, he chose to read a story that pushed their boundaries and did not necessarily meet their expectations.
“I wasn’t there to represent anything,” Thomas recalled. “So, I decided to go there and read Oscar Wilde’s story of ‘The Selfish Giant’ which has a sort of Christian gloss, but which is, in fact, a profoundly subversive, you know, story about faith and sexuality and all that kind of stuff. I mean, I don’t know whether it landed or not.”
Richard Tried to Defeat Expectations
Choosing to read that Oscar Wilde story was just one instance where Richard Thomas attempted to show the public that he was different than his beloved character from “The Waltons.”
“You’d try wherever you could to somehow, you know, defeat those expectations to a point,” Thomas also said.
He also recalled interactions he had with fans of the show during the 2016 interview.
“I mean, I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘My husband has modeled his life on your character and who you are. And, I’m sure you’re this way. You’re a good this; you’re a good that. You believe in this and you believe in that,'” Richard Thomas shared.
“The Waltons” star also talked about what it was like for him to have people say such things to him.
“It’s amazing, the things that people (feel about you) based on a character you play,” Thomas said. “It’s crazy.”
You can watch Richard Thomas discuss how he dealt with the expectations people had of him thanks to his role on “The Waltons” below.