Here's why Little Ricky said the set of The Andy Griffith Show was more fun than I Love Lucy

The child star recalls Andy Griffith playing checkers backstage.

One of the first sitcom kids to win the hearts of TV audiences was Little Ricky on I Love Lucy. Through the series run, there were seven different kids who played the son of Lucy and Ricky, including once Leave It to Beaver star Jerry Mathers in a dream sequence. But the final Little Ricky cast, and the Little Ricky who took us to the iconic series end was a child actor named Keith Thibodeaux, billed back then as Richard Keith.

With his dark mop of hair and deep brown eyes, Thibodeaux mimicked the facial expressions of his famous parents, demonstrating an early sense for comedy that saw the young star eventually cast in other shows, including a couple dramatic episodes of Route 66 and Ben Casey in 1961. The next year, the young star would appear on yet another iconic sitcom, as one of Opie's best pals on The Andy Griffith Show.

On The Andy Griffith Show, Thibodeaux appeared in 13 episodes, showing up first as Carter French in the classic episode "One-Punch Opie," serving as the friend who ultimately backs up Opie as he confronts his first bully. After that, Thibodeaux landed the role of Johnny Paul Jason, among "Opie and His Merry Men," the right-hand man in "Opie and the Carnival" and on the dance-floor during Opie's first dance in "Look Paw, I'm Dancing."

We always saw Little Ricky right next to Little Opie, and for attentive viewers, it was a subtle blending of two of classic TV's most cherished worlds. According to Keith Thibodeaux in a recent interview, working on these two shows was like night and day for a child actor. Ahead of his appearance at this year's Mayberry Days, Thibodeaux told Mt. Airy News, "The I Love Lucy set was a wonderful set, great people. But there was a little bit more pressure.”

According to this Little Ricky, the whole experience of working on I Love Lucy introduced the young star to working in a formal atmosphere, and while he has good memories playing with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's kids, he remembers having more fun on the set of The Andy Griffith Show. Thibodeaux said in the same interview, "The Andy Griffith Show was a wonderful experience. The set was more laid back, more country…they (the actors) were basically like they were on the show. Andy would play checkers with the make-up man…he’d often strum his guitar with the cast in the back. It was just a good, down-home set.”

And, of course, being on set of Andy meant he got to pal around with Opie. Thibodeaux remembered, "I was a couple of years older than Ron. We were great friends on the set, we’d hang out, but I was just older than him, I didn’t really have a lot in common with him off the set. He was really a nice guy."

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Bill 8 months ago
I can imagine it would be hard working with Lucille Ball.
RedSamRackham 13 months ago
* Yet none of the lads who portrayed Little Ricky ever got name credit giving I Love Lucy viewers the false belief that Desi Arnaz Jr was Little Ricky. On Lucy Desi Comedy Hour the lad was billed merely as Little Ricky with no mention of his actual name.
MaryMitch 13 months ago
I had no idea Little Ricky and Johnny Paul were the same actor, but now I see it! Duh!
Dicazi 13 months ago
More kids to play with on TAGS.
And William Fawley didn t get along with Vivian Vance and Lucy and Desi ended up getting divorced shortly after that show wrapped.
VinceClews 13 months ago
There was a "small" oversight in an otherwise interesting article on Keith Thibodeaux. Ballet Magnificat! is not just a ballet company. It is a Christian ballet company. A quote from "Water Walkers: 39 Stories of Faith", ch. 9, p.43, from Keith, "Both Ballet Magnificat! and David and the Giants (his rock group) are dedicated to presenting the Gospel through our shows." That these groups are a testimony to Keith's faith is the central element of his story. I know. I spoke with Keith and wrote the story of his spiritual encounter with the Lord. It would be interesting to know why the writer chose not to mention the purpose for Ballet Magnificat! He didn't spend time (in person, by phone or email) and miss that point.
EllisClevenger VinceClews 13 months ago
The "small" oversight" was yours. Ballet Magnificat! nor David and the Giants was mentioned in this article. You might be a writer, but you are no reader.
Pacificsun VinceClews 13 months ago
Am all for an actor's good character and noble activities. But this article had a focus and wasn't a biography about Keith (check Wikipedia for more research) but a comparison of two working environments, from a young actor's perspective. An author is entitled to use whatever (accurate) perspective they choose. And I would loose the suspicious tone involved in second guessing who is (probably) an intern working for MeTV writing staff.
ETristanBooth 13 months ago
Nice to hear. And not surprising.
curtg 13 months ago
Opie's first encounter with a bully was in the episode "Opie and the Bully," in season 2 (S2E1).
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