The actor Richard Thomas (born 1951) is best known for his leading role as John “John-Boy” Walton Jr. in the CBS tv-series The Waltons. In 1973, his performance on the show earned him a Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

Another example of an opportunity to see Richard Thomas is the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King´s horror story It, in which Thomas co-starred as Bill Denbrough, the stuttering founder of the Losers Club who desires to kill the predatory monster Pennywise.

More recently, Thomas played Special Agent Frank Gaad in seasons 1-4 of FX´s period spy drama series The Americans.

Richard Thomas


Richard Thomas was born in 1951 and grew up in Manhattan, New York City. He is the son of the dancers Barbara Fallis and Richard S. Thomas, who founded the New York School of Ballet.

Thomas made his Broadway debut in Sunrise at Campobello in 1958, when he was just seven years old. The following year, he could be seen in the NBC Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, where he acted alongside stars such as Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer, and Hume Cronyn.

Throughout his childhood, he appeared in several daytime soap operas broadcast from New York City, including The Edge of Night (where he played Ben Schultz in 1961), A Flame in the Wind, and As the World Turns (where he played Tom Hughes in 1966-1967).


Richard Thomas studied at Columbia College, which is the undergraduate college of Columbia University. He majored in Chinese, before switching to the English department.

He left Columbia during his junior year, because he had gotten the role as John-Boy in The Waltons and needed to be in Los Angeles.

Adult acting career

Richard Thomas first major film role was in the 1969 movie Winning, a film starring Paul Newman as racecar driver Frank Capua and Thomas as his teenage stepson Charley. That same year, Thomas also appeared in the coming-of-age film Last Summer alongside Bruce Davison and Barbara Hershey.

In 1970, Thomas could be seen in the episode “The Weary Willies” of Bonanza, the longest-running western on NBC.

In 1971, Thomas was back on the big screen again, playing the lead role in both Red Sky at Morning (a film based on the 1968 Richard Bradford novel of the same name) and the independent film Cactus in the Snow; a story about a young man about to get shipped out to Vietnam.

The Waltons

Richard Thomas appeared as John “John-Boy” Walton Jr. in the 1971 CBS tv-movie “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story”, and when CBS decided to make a tv-series based on the characters in the film Thomas was asked to return. (Many of the other actors from the movie were replaced by other actors for the series.)

Thomas appeared in 122 episodes of The Waltons, before leaving the show in 1977 and being replaced by Robert Wightman. Thomas would later return to play John-Boy in the three tv-movie sequels that aired in the 1990s.

During his time with the tv-series, Thomas directed five episodes of The Waltons.

After The Waltons

Richard Thomas continued with his acting career after leaving The Waltons, and have since then appeared in films, tv-movies, and on stage. For more details about his movies and tv-series, see the lists below.

Thomas has also been the co-producer of What Love Sees (1996), the co-executive producer of Summer of Fear (1996) and For All Time (2000), and producer for Camping with Camus (2000).

Richard Thomas on stage

Richard Thomas made his Broadway début at tender age of 7, and after his time with The Waltons he returned to Broadway in 1980 as a replacement in Landford Wilson´s “Fifth of July”.

In 1987, he played the political activist Thomas Paine in the one-man show “Citizen Tom Paine” by Howard Fast, and performed in both Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Examples of other stage productions on his resume:

  • In 1990, Thomas played the role of Stephan in Terrence McNally´s “The Lisbon Traviata” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
  • In 1993, he had the title role in a Shakespeare Theater production of Richard II in Washington, DC.
  • Hamlet (1987), Peer Gynt (1989), Richard III (1994), and Tiny Alice (1996) at Hartford Stage, Connecticut.
  • The 2001 London’s West End production of Yasmina Reza’s Art.
  • The Public Theater’s 2005 production of As You Like It. (In Central Park, New York.)
  • Michael Frayn’s Democracy on Broadway (2004)
  • Primary Stages’ off-Broadway production of Terrence McNally’s The Stendhal Syndrome (2004)
  • Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men, at Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2006. Thomas played Juror Eight, and George Wendt played Juror One.
  • The 2009-2010 Broadway production of David Mamet´s play Race, where Thomas played alongside James Spader, David Alan Grier and Kerry Washington.
  • In early 2011, Thomas starred in the Off-Broadway production Timon of Athens, at the New York Public Theater.
  • The 2017 revival of The Little Foxes, on Broadway. For his work with this play, Thomas was nominated for a 2017 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
  • In December 2018, Thomas played Ebenezer Scrooge in Pittsburgh CLO´s production of A Musical Christmas Carol.

Family life

Richard Thomas married the club dancer Alma Gonzales in 1975, and their son Richard Francisco was born the following year. In 1981, the family grew as the triplet daughters Pilar, Barbara and Gwyneth were born. The couple divorced in 1993.

In 1994, Thomas married Santa Fe art dealer Georgiana Bischoff. Bischoff had the two daughters Brooke and Kendra from previous marriages, and in 1996 she gave birth to a boy which was named Montana.


Year Title Role
1969 Winning Charley
Last Summer Peter
1971 Red Sky at Morning Joshua Arnold
The Todd Killings Billy Roy
Cactus in the Snow Harley MacIntosh
1972 You’ll Like My Mother Kenny
1977 September 30, 1955 Jimmy J.
1980 Battle Beyond the Stars Shad
2000 The Million Dollar Kid Ted Hunter
Wonder Boys Walter Gaskell
2009 Taking Woodstock Reverend Don Darren Pettie
2015 Anesthesia Mr. Werth
2021 Christmas vs. the Walters Roger
The Unforgivable Michael Malcolm

Short films

Thomas narrated the 1974 short film “Sisters of the Space Age”.


Year Title Role
1959 A Doll’s House Ivor
1971 The Homecoming: A Christmas Story John-Boy Walton
1974 The Red Badge of Courage Pvt. Henry Fleming
1975 The Silence Cadet James Pelosi
1978 Getting Married Michael Carboni
1979 No Other Love Andrew Madison
All Quiet on the Western Front Paul Baumer
1980 To Find My Son David Benjamin
1981 Berlin Tunnel 21 Lieutenant Sandy Mueller
Barefoot in the Park Paul Bratter
1982 Pavarotti & Friends Himself
Johnny Belinda William Richmond
Fifth of July Kenneth Talley Jr.
Christmas at Kennedy Center with Leontyne Price Himself
1983 Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr. Story Hank Williams Jr.
Hobson’s Choice Will Mossup
1984 The Master of Ballantrae Henry Durie
1985 Final Jeopardy Marty Campbell
1988 Go Toward the Light Greg Madison
1989 Glory! Glory! Rev. Bobby Joe
1990 Andre’s Mother Cal Porter – Andre’s Lover
Common Ground Colin Diver
1991 Mission of the Shark Lieutenant Steven Scott
Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus James O’Hanlan
1992 A Thousand Heroes Gary Brown
Lincoln John Hay
1993 I Can Make You Love Me Richard Farley
Precious Victims Don Weber
Linda Paul Cowley
A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion John-Boy Walton
1994 To Save the Children David Young
1995 Death in Small Doses Richard Lyon
A Walton Wedding John-Boy Walton
Down, Out & Dangerous Tim Willows
The Christmas Box Richard Evans
1996 West Virginia: A Film History Narrator (voice role)
What Love Sees Gordon Holly
Timepiece Richard Evans
1997 A Walton Easter John-Boy Walton
A Thousand Men and a Baby Dr. Hugh ‘Bud’ Keenan
Flood: A River’s Rampage Herb Dellenbach
1998 Big and Hairy Victor Dewlap
2000 In the Name of the People Jack Murphy
The Christmas Secret Jerry McNeil
2001 The Miracle of the Cards Dr. Neal Kassell
2002 Beyond the Prairie, Part 2 Charles Ingalls
Anna’s Dream Rod Morgan
2005 Annie’s Point Richard Eason
2006 Wild Hearts Bob
2011 Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Dick
2021 The Waltons’ Homecoming John-Boy Walton (voice)/Host

Video films

1989 Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder Charles Ingalls
2000 Bloodhounds Inc. Robert Hunter

Television series

Year Title Role Notes
1961 Way Out Jeremy Keeler Episode: “The Croaker”
Great Ghost Tales Conradin Episode: “Srendhi Vashtar”
The Defenders Johnny Remington Episode: “The Boy Between”
From These Roots Richard Unknown episodes
The Edge of Night Ben Schultz, Jr.
1961–1962 1, 2, 3 Go! Himself 5 episodes
1964 A Flame in the Wind Chris Austin Episode: “#1.1”
1965 Seaway Martin Anderson Episode: “Last Voyage”
1966–1967 As the World Turns Thomas Christopher Hughes #4 Unknown episodes
1969–1970 Marcus Welby, M.D. Dennis Alan Graham 2 episodes
1970 Medical Center Toby Tavormina Episode: “Runaway”
Bracken’s World Alan Episode: “Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon”
Bonanza Billy Episode: “The Weary Willies”
1971 The F.B.I. John “Chill” Chilton Episode: “The Game of Terror”
1972 Night Gallery Ian Evans Episode: “The Sins of the Fathers”
1972–1977 The Waltons John-Boy Walton 124 episodes
1973 Match Game 73 Himself 5 episodes
1979 Roots: The Next Generations Jim Warner 3 episodes
1989 The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible Mark Episode: “The Easter Story”
1990 Tales from the Crypt Dr. Trask Episode: “Mute Witness to Murder”
It Bill Denbrough 2 episodes
1995 The Outer Limits Dr. Stephen Ledbetter Episode: “The New Breed”
The Invaders Jerry Thayer 2 episodes
1996 Dave’s World Himself Episode: “L.A. Times”
1997–1998 Promised Land Joe Greene 4 episodes
Touched by an Angel 2 episodes
1997 Riding the Rails Narrator TV documentary
1998 The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson David Robinson 30 episodes
1999 The Practice Walter Arens Episode: “Committed”
1999–2001 It’s a Miracle Host 24 episodes
2001 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Daniel Varney Episode: “Scourge”
2002–2003 Just Cause Hamilton Whitney III 22 episodes
2006 Nightmares & Dreamscapes Howard Cottrell Episode: “Autopsy Room Four”
2009 Law & Order Roger Jenkins Episode: “Dignity”
2011 Rizzoli & Isles Professor Dwayne Cravitz Episode: “Rebel Without a Pause”
2013–2016 The Americans Frank Gaad 41 episodes
2013 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Nat Randolph Episode: “Brief Interlude”
White Collar William Wolcott Episode: “Master Plan”
2014 The Good Wife Ed Pratt Episode: “Dear God”
2016 Chicago P. D. Adam Ames Episode: “A Night Owl”
Elementary Mitch Barrett Episode: “Henny Penny the Sky is Falling”
Conviction Earl Slavitt Episode: “A Different Kind of Death”
2017, 2019 Billions Sanford Bensinger 3 episodes
2017 Blue Bloods Congressman Richard Walters Episode: “Ghosts of the Past”
2019 The Blacklist David Foy Episode: “The Third Estate”
2019–2020 NCIS: New Orleans Deputy Director Van Cleef 2 episodes
2020 The Comey Rule Chuck Rosenberg 2 episodes
2021 Tell Me Your Secrets Bodie Lord 5 episodes
2022 Ozark Nathan Davis 3 episodes

Awards and nominations

For his role in The Waltons, he was awarded the 1973 Primetime Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He was nominated for the same award in 1974, but did not get it that time.

For his role in The Waltons, he was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category Best Actor – Television Drama Series in both 1974 and 1975.

In the 1990s, Thomas was nominated for a CableACE Award twice in the category Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries. First in 1990 for his role in Glory! Glory! And then in 1995 for his work in the crime drama Linda.

More recently, he has been nominated for a 2016 Drama Desk Award in the category Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for his role in Incident at Vichy, and for a 2017 Tony Award in the category Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in The Little Foxes.