Audiences shout ''Goodnight, John-Boy'' at Richard Thomas during his stage performances
The actor still can't escape "Goodnight, John-Boy."
No matter how big of a star you become, it’ll never stop some people from recognizing you from the show that gave you your first big break. That was the case for Richard Thomas and his role of John-Boy on The Waltons — and he didn’t mind it one bit.
Before he was a television icon, Thomas was a Broadway star at the ripe age of seven when he debuted in Sunrise at Campobello. Thomas’s parents danced with the New York City Ballet and owned the New York City School of Ballet, so there was no shortage of the arts in his childhood.
When Thomas spoke with the Courier-Journal, however, he spoke of what he called his “Garden of Eden.” Thomas found his real paradise in the Kentucky town of Paintsville where he visited his grandparents. He said of Paintsville, “I spent every summer as a child with my cousins and grandparents on their farm outside of Paintsville. Kentucky was my childhood paradise... I loved it.”
The experiences were so influential that while portraying country-born John-Boy, Thomas drew on those previous summers to add realism.
At 71, Thomas was still hard at work on the stage, taking up the role of Atticus Finch in the National Broadway Tour of To Kill A Mockingbird (a role he still holds at the time of writing), though that doesn’t mean his days with The Waltons was at its end. The Courier-Journal wrote that often after a show during bows, audience members will call “Goodnight, John-Boy” up to Thomas from the crowd.
When asked about his feelings regarding the call, Thomas said, “It’s fine with me. I love it. I mean, what are you going to do?”