‘The Waltons’: Ralph Waite Was Called ‘Demanding’ but ‘Special’ by Richard Thomas: Here’s Why

by Matthew Wilson
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Richard Thomas reflects on his “The Waltons” co-star Ralph Waite. The two played father and son for over five seasons (Thomas ended up leaving the show) and several TV movies.

Waite played John Sr., the patriarch of the family, for eight seasons and the TV specials. Before he left and was recast, Thomas starred on the show in the main role of John Boy. The actor reflected on Waite, who ended up passing away in 2014, and their working relationship together.

Thomas described Waite as demanding but also sweet and kind. Waite acted as a mentor to the young actor when he was on set. And since his passing, Thomas remembers Waite and their time together fondly.

“Ralph was unfailingly honest and demanding as an actor,” Thomas told Smashing Interviews. “I mean ‘demanding’ in a good way, demanding that things be clear and well done. He was a sweet, affectionate, funny man, too. I loved Ralph a lot. We all did. He was a great progressive activist and a great contributor to his community. Ralph was a really special guy, and I had a lot of admiration for him as well as a lot of love.”

Richard Thomas Worked with Ralph Wait Before ‘The Waltons’

Before they played father and son on “The Waltons,” they actually played father and son years earlier on the film “Last Summer” in 1969. Thomas starred in the film, which explored the coming of age for a boy during the summer. The two carried their familial relationship into “The Waltons” a few years later.

“Ralph was a wonderful actor. I had actually worked with him a few years prior when I was a kid in a movie,” Thomas said. “Ralph’s character doesn’t actually appear in the final version, but I did a film called ‘Last Summer’ in 1969 for Frank Perry, and Ralph played my dad in that. The scene between us didn’t actually make it in, but I thought then he was a wonderful actor. I was very fond of Ralph. He was a scrupulously honest person. He had impeccable integrity as an actor, so even though I was a very experienced twenty-something actor because I’d been doing it for many years, I still looked to my seniors for examples.”

While on set, Thomas said he learned a lot from the actor and also carries those lessons forward into his own career.

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