Richard Thomas is more than just John-Boy. The actor might be best known for his playing the oldest Walton child in the classic 1970s series The Waltons. But Thomas has had a long career on stage and screen, including memorable roles in the 1990 TV miniseries. Item, Netflix’s ozark, and FX’s The Americans.
Richard Thomas appeared in soaps and ‘Bonzanza’ before starring in ‘The Waltons’
RELATED: ‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Says Richard Thomas ‘Was Different Than John-Boy In a Lot of Ways’
Thomas was born in New York City in 1951. He grew up in an artistic family – his parents were both dancers with the New York City Ballet – and began acting at a young age. In 1959, he appeared in a TV adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s To Doll’s House. Later, he had roles in soaps such as A Flame in the Wind, and As the World Turns. Thomas was also seen in shows such as Bonanza and Marcus Welby MD, as well as the 1969 movie winning with Paul Newman.
In 1972, he began starring in The Waltons. He won an Emmy in 1973 for playing John-Boy Walton, but ended up leaving the show in 1977. Robert Wightman then took over the John-Boy role.
After ‘The Waltons,’ Thomas starred in a sequel to ‘Roots’ and ‘It’
After exiting The Waltons, Thomas continued to act regularly in theater and on TV. In 1979 he appeared in Roots: The Next Generations, a sequel to roots, as well as a TV movie adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front. In the early ’80s, he played Hank Williams Jr. in a made-for-TV movie about the singer’s life.
In 1990, Thomas portrayed an adult Bill Denborough in ABC’s miniseries Item. In a 2011 interview with Broadway Worldhe reflected on the experience of making the Stephen King adaptation.
“I loved doing that picture. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience to shoot it,” he said. “A lot of us were friends already when we came together to make the picture, so I was very close to many of the cast members – I was very close to John Ritter and Richard Masur, and I had worked with Annette O’Toole and Dennis Christopher. We were friends, so it was really terrific all around.”
Recently, he’s been in ‘The Americans’ and ‘Ozark’
RELATED: ‘The Waltons’: John-Boy Walton Actor Richard Thomas Said the Dinner Scenes Were ‘A Nightmare to Shoot’
More recently, Thomas played FBI agent Frank Gaad on FX’s Emmy-nominated spy series The Americans. He also played Wendy Byrde’s father Nathan Davis in the fourth season of Netflix’s Ozark.
On the latter show, he had the chance to reunite with Laura Linney, with whom he’d appeared in a Broadway play several years earlier.
“Laura and I go way back,” he told For the. “One of the things that is so funny about it was like four or five years ago, I played her husband de ella on Broadway in The Little Foxes. I went from husband to father in a very short amount of time. We have great fun together, she’s a wonderful colleague and a terrific actress and it was a great part. It was just delicious to play… It was a great show, with wonderful actors. It was a great experience, lots of fun. I loved it!”
In 2022, Thomas has been touring the country as part of a production of To Kill a Mockingbird From Aaron Sorkin. He plays Atticus Finch. But he hasn’t completely left The Waltons behind. When the CW revived the show for a holiday movie in 2021, Thomas stepped into the role of the narrator. He returned again in 2022 to narrate A Waltons Thanksgiving.
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