This is what it was like for Little Ricky on the set of 'I Love Lucy'
The former child actor gives us some behind-the-scenes insight.
Image: Everett Collection
It's been over 60 years since Little Ricky first captured the attention of television audiences on I Love Lucy. The character's birth was the largest television event at the time, and remains one of the biggest in history. Seventy-two percent of households with television sets tuned in to see Lucy give birth to her first child.
With so much attention, the pressure was on for casting directors to find the right boy for the part. After an extensive search, Keith Thibodeaux was chosen to play Little Ricky during his childhood years.
Recently, ABC News caught up with the actor to find out what he's been up to since the show ended. In the interview, we also get a glimpse at what it was like on the set of one of television's biggest programs.
Despite his young age, Thibodeaux still remembers the day his dad took him to audition for the part on the show.
I walked on the set and there was Lucy; she was standing there and she was looking at me. She said, 'Okay, he's cute, but what does he do?' My dad said, 'Well he plays the drums,' and she said, 'Oh, come on. I can't believe that.' Then, she says, 'Look, we have a drum set over there, go ahead and let him play.' Eventually Desi Arnaz himself came over and started jamming with me on the drums and then he kind of stood up and said, 'Well, I think we found Little Ricky.'
The tiny drummer would appear in 35 episodes of the series, and then later on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Over the course of five years, Thibodeaux formed a close bond with the actors on set, especially his onscreen parents.
Lucy was naturally very motherly to me and Desi kind of made me feel at ease—that was his role. They were very generous towards me and I was best friends with their children. Whenever I was over there, and Desi would give his kids gifts and he'd never leave me out—whether it was customized bowling balls or L.A. Rams jerseys, he'd give me the same thing.
Despite being around guest stars like Jimmy Durante and Maurice Chevalier, Thibodeaux always kept his composure. There was one time when he was starstruck, though. The child actor says his favorite episode was "Lucy and Superman," when The Adventures of Superman star George Reeves made a guest appearance as the superhero.
When they got Superman to come on the set, that was a big, big thing for me. I looked up at George Reeves and he shook my hand and I said, 'Wow, you really are Superman.' In my little-kid mind, he was really super, but in my acting mind, he was really an actor. I went back and forth between fantasy and reality.
After Ball and Arnaz divorced, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour ended and Thibodeaux found himself out of work. After a brief stint on The Andy Griffith Show, the actor fell into a depression before discovering Christianity in 1974.
Today, Thibodeaux and his wife own a ballet dance company called Ballet Magnificat! in Jackson, Mississippi. And, yes, he still knows how to play the drums.
Despite the chaotic aftermath that comes with being a child star, he still has a fondness for the show that made him famous.
It's held up all these years. I just think that to be associated with the show, it's a good thing. I can say, in a humble way, that I don't think it's ever been matched.