‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Thomas Talks How Important ‘Faith’ Was to the Show

by Maria Hartfield

Just in time for the holidays, The Walton Family returns in a special revival aptly named The Waltons’ Homecoming. The reboot will premiere on November 28 and will be narrated by Richard Thomas who played John Boy Walton in the original series.

“It’s a story about an American family living through a time of social upheaval and economic hardship. It’s about human kindness, compassion, and love,” Thomas said of the film.

The original CBS series aired from 1971-1982 and ran for a total of nine seasons. The release of The Waltons’ Homecoming commemorates the 50th anniversary of The Homecoming: A Christmas Story based on a book by Earl Hamner Jr. in the 1970s.

The Waltons’ Homecoming begins on Christmas Eve in 1933. Cast members of the series include John Walton Sr. (Ben Lawson) and his wife, Olivia (Bellamy Young), and their rowdy family of six.

To summarize the plot, John Walton Sr. is away from home in search of work. His family becomes worried he may miss Christmas when a telegram arrives announcing his return. Shortly thereafter, hope turns to fear when John’s bus gets caught in a nasty blizzard stalling his trip home for the holidays. As events unfold, the family must come together in hopes of a Christmas miracle.

Faith Will Remain An Important Part of the Show

Executive producer Sam Haskell confirmed early on that faith would remain an essential part of the narrative.

“In my initial conversations with Mark Pedowitz, the chairman of the CW, I told him that there was going to be a faith element in this and he embraced it completely,” Haskell said of his conversations with the network. “[Pedowitz] feels as I do that putting faith and family and hope and joy front and center, it’s something this world needs right now. And I believe that The Waltons’ Homecoming is going to bring that to families. He and I both know that families watching something together is very rare these days. And this is the kind of program that can bring an entire family together.”

Thomas Reflects on the Original Story

In a press conference via Zoom, Thomas remembers conflicts they faced when filming the original series.

“When we did the series originally, this country, we were very split because of all the issues going on. The line went right down the middle of the dinner table, a lot of the time,” he explained. “It was the beginning of a sort of balkanization where the demographic was split within the household. There were more televisions. So one of the great things about the show was that it brought people together. Young people could see a story about older people, and older people could remember their childhood. And the faith element was just — you can’t really tell the story about people in that part of America in 1933 without a faith element. That was a huge part of people’s lives, and it still is around the country.”

He continued, “Dramaturgically speaking, we had many stories where faith and how people acted their faith out, where their prejudices were, where the benefits were. John had one point of view about going to church, which you didn’t do. Olivia had another [point of view]. Grandpa was a pantheist, basically. It was such a big part of our storytelling and everyone had a different connection to it. So I think it’s completely valid still.”

The holiday classic airs Sunday, November 28 at 8 pm EST on The CW.