Richard Thomas … a born actor in 1951

Richard Thomas … a born actor in 1951


Richard Earl Thomas is an American actor born on June 13, 1951. He is best known for his leading role as budding author John-Boy Walton in the very popular CBS drama The Waltons, where he won an Emmy Award, and received nominations for another and two Golden Globe Awards. He was born into a family deeply ingrained in the performing arts. So it was of little surprise when, aged just seven, he made his professional debut on Broadway as John Roosevelt in the Tony Award-winning production of “Sunrise at Campobello” in 1958. More acting work soon followed. Even though he was attending school he made early television appearances on installments of the long-running “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” in adaptations of “The Christmas Tree” (NBC, 1958) and Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” (NBC, 1959) alongside such impressive names as Ellen Burstyn, Julie Harris and Christopher Plummer. Shortly thereafter, he was the co-host of the children’s educational series “1, 2, 3 Go” (NBC, 1961-62), in addition to making guest appearances on such drama programs as “The Defenders” (CBS, 1961-65).


Richard Thomas as co-host of the children’s educational series “1, 2, 3 Go” (NBC, 1961-62)

 He had his first major film roles, appearing in Winning (1969) with Paul Newman, about auto racing, and Last Summer (also 1969) with Bruce Davison and Barbara Hershey, a summer coming-of-age movie. 


Richard Thomas & Paul Newman (‘Winning’ – 1969)

He became nationally recognized for his portrayal of John “John-Boy” Walton, Jr., in the 1970s’ TV series The Waltons, which was based on the real life of writer Earl Hamner, Jr. He appeared in the 1971 pilot The Homecoming, and then played the role continuously in 122 episodes until 1977. Thomas left the series and his role was taken over by Robert Wightman, but Thomas returned to the role in three Waltons TV movies, 1993–97. Thomas won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1973. 


Richard Thomas on set at The Waltons

In 1972, he played against type as murderer and rapist Kenneth Kinsolving in You’ll Like My Mother opposite Patty Duke. He played the lead roles of Private Henry Fleming in the 1974 TV movie The Red Badge of Courage, and Paul Baumer in the 1979 TV movie All Quiet on the Western Front. In further TV movies, he played Col. Warner’s younger son Jim in Roots: The Next Generations (the sequel to the Emmy-winning Roots); the title role in the biopic Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr., Story (1983) ; Will Mossup in Hobson’s Choice (1983) ; Henry Durrie in The Master of Ballantrae (1984) ; Martin Campbell in Final Jeopardy (1985) ; and the adult Bill Denbrough in Stephen King’s It (1990).


Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine  (‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ – 1979)

He went on to appear in numerous successful roles on both stage and TV in the USA and Britain. He now has a supporting role in the FX Network Cold War drama The Americans, which debuted in January 2013. He plays Frank Gaad, an FBI counterintelligence supervisor helping to investigate KGB sleeper agents in early 1980s America.

Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad ('The Americans' - 2013 - 2016)

Richard Thomas as Frank Gaad (‘The Americans’ – 2013 – 2016)

There are currently two Facebook groups featuring Richard Thomas. The first is a fan page called Richard Thomas – Appreciation Page. The second is Richard Thomas and the Waltons.

OK … now I can say it … GOODNGHT JOHN-BOY!!!

16 responses to “Richard Thomas … a born actor in 1951

  1. I’m feeling old! I never used to watch The Waltons, except by accident but I always remember an outtake on one of Denis Nordern’s programmes where John-Boy mistakenly said (or maybe it was one of the other characters) ‘Hang him by his balls on the Christmas tree.’

  2. I didnt realise how prolific he was until I read this. Phew he’s done s ton of films. Now I can get the music for the Waltons out of my head LOL

  3. Whenever I see Richard Thomas I think of John-Boy! I loved the Walton’s and still we are joking with “Goodnight John-Boy”!

  4. Now *that’s* a blast from the past! Thanks Chris. Mega hugs.

  5. Pingback: Hoping It’ll Be Alright on the Night | Rogues & Vagabonds

  6. Not being born in 1951… I don’t believe my parents met until 53 and being in the Uk some of your memorabilia passes me by. But II loved the Waltons and little house on the Prairie. When Mary Ellen went blind… tears and depression swamped me, well she had my name… and had watched the story of Mary Keller. Oh I am filling up *sniff*.
    Now, back to your post, I foun it very interesting not realising how versatile he was until I stopped by. Thank you for making me be dragged back to that traumatic moment in my young life… heehee! Have a great weekend.

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