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 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.
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.
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.
|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|
|2021||Christmas vs. the Walters||Roger|
|The Unforgivable||Michael Malcolm|
Thomas narrated the 1974 short film “Sisters of the Space Age”.
|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|
|1993||I Can Make You Love Me||Richard Farley|
|Precious Victims||Don Weber|
|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|
|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|
|2011||Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow||Dick|
|2021||The Waltons’ Homecoming||John-Boy Walton (voice)/Host|
|1989||Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder||Charles Ingalls|
|2000||Bloodhounds Inc.||Robert Hunter|
|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.