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Walton's in the Media.
TV Close-Ups
January 1975

John-Boy (Richard Thomas) comforts an aging relative (Beulah Bondi) who has been evited from her home.

It's off to college for John-Boy Walton - where he soon discovers that not all lessons are learned in class,

Richard Thomas Grows Up
By Peggy Herz

John-Boy Walton is going to college now and someday soon he'll become the writer he wants to be.


Richard Thomas, who plays John-Boy in CBS's The Waltons, is growing up too. At 23 he has had three years of being in a hit TV series.


At my age, every year seems enormously different! " Richard said. "At first the years creep along, all the same. Then suddenly everything speeds up - and things change from week to week. Maturity may not be the word for it, but life is certainly different!"


While Richard talked, young people dressed like college students of the 1930's were rehearsing a scene nearby. Some sauntered casually through a grassy area representing the college campus; others drove by in old cars. The cars had 1934 license plates, for the series, The Waltons, takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930's.


From the beginning, Richard was very much involved in the development of the character of John-Boy Walton, and in the series itself. Everybody on the show has helped in its growth," Richard said. "We know that we have to keep within the setting and the limits of the story. The Waltons have to keep growing from year to year. The family can't just sit around the kitchen table year after year!"


Richard has been acting since he was six. "I was really born in a trunk!" he said with a grin. His parents were ballet dancers who danced with the National Ballet of Cuba from 1948 to 1953. Richard spent his first three years in Cuba, where he learned to speak Spanish.


He made his TV debut at the age of seven and has appeared in such series as Medical Center, Marcus Welby, M.D., and The FBI. He also appeared in the motion pictures Red Sky at Morning and The Last Summer.


"Being in The Waltons has helped my work considerably," Richard said. "TV is the best acting school there is. Being in front of any camera (movie or TV) is the best experience you can get. But with television you spend six days working on a show and then you can see it! Movie actors, on the other hand, sometimes have to wait months before seeing themselves in the finished production."


Richard enjoys working more than anything else, he said, but he has a number of other interests. "The only problem is time!" he exclaimed. "But if it's work taking up the time, that's OK! My free time has been cut down a lot. I don't have time for a large number of friends, but I'm still very close to my family. When the show was out of production, I went to New York to see them. I kept my apartment in New York when I first came out to California, but I've given that up."


Richard owns a house in Hollywood now which he describes as a "small cottage." He does his own gardening. "And I still find time to do a lot of reading, and I listen to a lot of music," he said. "I have a book of poems out too - Poems by Richard Thomas."


Richard has always loved animals and still has several dogs. "It's important to surround yourself with animals in a world where so many things are man-made. It gives you a sense of responsibility, a sense of being part of something," he said.


While Richard was in New York, he played on the stage in St. Joan. It was a special treat. Richard practically grew up on the stage. "I celebrated my 11th birthday when I was in Strange Interlude on Broadway," he recalled. "I even had a birthday cake on stage! Doing St. Joan was easy, although I find acting on stage before an audience is exhausting as well as exciting! Because of that, it is more of a luxury than acting on TV." Richard combined his interest in plays with television this season. He was in a special TV production of The Red Badge of Courage.


Richard has a grown brother, Robert, and a sister, Bronwyn, 13. His parents operate a ballet school in New York. "I grew up around dancers," Richard said. "Dancers and actors are very different. Dancers are less verbal, more silent - and more honest with themselves. Perhaps they aren't as magical if you meet them on the street, but they do have their feet on the ground - no pun intended!


"I like actors; I'm an actor. I'm verbal. I talk well and easily; actors tend to talk more and say less. But then actors are always having to sell themselves. "


Richard went to private school in junior and senior high. "I liked going to boys' schools!" he said. "I got a good education, though I was what you'd call a 'drastic underachiever.' I got A's when I applied myself, but I got bored easily and didn't do as well as I could have. I ended up with a middle-B average in high school. I was never very concerned about getting good grades."


He was too busy working. "And actually I, did better in school when I was working," he admitted. "It gave me the motivation I needed."


Richard has won an Emmy for his role as John-Boy and has seen his career really soar in the past three years. He is still "sold" on The Waltons which brought it all about. "I believe in the show and want to stay with it," he said. "I can see myself playing John-Boy as long as the show stays good. Let's face it," he said, "the minute we get boring, people will turn us off - like pushing an automatic destruct button!"

Richard as John-Boy is doing his best to see that doesn't happen.

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