Richard Thomas kept John-Boy alive in his performance as Atticus Finch

The actor is perfect in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Anybody familiar with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird understands that Atticus Finch is the ultimate forthright protagonist. Sure, the story is told from his daughter Scout's perspective, but Atticus is the hero of the story. Scout may make the last-minute appeal to her Maycomb neighbors, sparing her father's hide in a tense confrontation, but Atticus' intelligence and sincerity give his family and neighbors the hope they need. He is a man out of time, fearless in standing apart from his peers in doing what is right. 

If you're a fan of The Waltons, that character description might seem familiar. John-Boy, the caring, responsible eldest Walton child, isn't too far off from Atticus Finch. After all, John-Boy is a writer. Really, writers are just lawyers who don't get paid as much. Both jobs consist of stringing together a story to convince an audience.

It's not that big of a stretch to imagine John-Boy growing up to be someone like Atticus Finch. It makes sense, then, that Richard Thomas, the actor who played John-Boy on The Waltons grew up to play Atticus Finch onstage. Beginning in 2022, Thomas starred in the National Broadway touring production of To Kill a Mockingbird. This staging was penned by television and movie scribe Alan Sorkin. Unsurprisingly, Thomas soars in the role. 

"He's an absolutely, absolutely sublime Atticus and a really beautiful human being," said co-star Jacqueline Williams in a 2023 interview with The Kansas City Star. Williams stars as Calpurnia, the Finches' family cook. One of the best things Sorkin's production does is reframe the relationship between Atticus and Calpurnia, adding layers to both characters in the process.

In that same Star article, Thomas praises Sorkin's ability to stay reverent of the text while not being precious about the source material, saying the playwright has "taken Atticus off the pedestal, and thank God for that."

"He's made this Atticus very, very human, a man with a lot to learn and a very teachable person," said Thomas. "He's given him a wonderful sense of humor, and I think warmed him up a bit. It makes him a real pleasure to play."

Spencer's Mountain, the novel that spawned The Waltons, was published just one year after To Kill a Mockingbird, and the books share a lot in common. Both are set in the South in the 1930s, and both uphold virtues such as honor and truthfulness. The authors of each book, Earl Hamner and Harper Lee, died within five weeks of each other in 2016.

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22 Comments

WVsassy 1 month ago
There is only one Atticus Finch, and that is Gregory Peck.
Avie 1 month ago
"It's not that big of a stretch to imagine John-Boy growing up to be someone like Atticus Finch."

You mean it's not that big a stretch.

WHY do some people INISIST on dropping utterly superfluous "ofs" into sentences like these. It's AWFUL grammar. STOP it!
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harlow1313 LoveMETV22 1 month ago
>"...that would make you the resident active pedant!"< I fight the good fight!
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 1 month ago
Whew! Glad to see you decided to delete your previous comment:

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Edited of course, as it was rather coarse and inappropriate.
But at least there is some sense of social decorum in the meantime!
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 1 month ago
No, I did not and would not delete it, but sadly, it is now gone. C'est la vie.

I am an adult, and I write as does a gentleman. Biologically, it was factual and delicately phrased.

>"...coarse and inappropriate."< Why thank you! That pleases me.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 1 month ago
" No, I did not and would not delete it"
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Odd. Usually when the website removes a comment it displays "comment removed" or
"this comment has been deleted."

Well at least we know what not to post, so it's not a total loss.

"Live and Learn."
harlow1313 1 month ago
Well, Atticus fails to save Tom Robinson. The novel's hero is actually Boo Radley.
Bapa1 1 month ago
Mockingbird played down here in SoFL a few months ago. My daughter and her husband went. Richard Thomas was suppose to appear, but he fell ill. They said it was still a good show.
MarioNYC 1 month ago
I really enjoyed the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, though I felt Atticus was unrealistically ideal. I would like to see Richard Thomas's portrayal as written by Alan Sorkin.🤞
cperrynaples MarioNYC 1 month ago
Well, Gregory Peck won the Oscar! I don't think Thomas can top that...LOL!
kkvegas MarioNYC 1 month ago
To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book, and I saw the Alan Sorkin version with Richard Thomas when it came to my city. Truly wonderful!
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