Richard Thomas (actor) : biography
Richard Earl Thomas (born June 13, 1951) is an American actor, best known for his leading role as budding author John-Boy Walton in the CBS drama The Waltons. During his career, Thomas won an Emmy Award, and received nominations for another Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Awards.
Thomas soon began his television career. In 1959, he appeared in the presentation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer and Hume Cronyn. He then began acting in daytime TV, appearing in soap operas such as The Edge of Night (as Ben Schultz, 1961) and As the World Turns (as Tom Hughes, 1966–67), which were broadcast from his native Manhattan.
Thomas received his first major film roles, appearing in Winning (1969) with Paul Newman, about auto racing, and Last Summer (also 1969) with Barbara Hershey, a summer coming-of-age movie.
He became nationally recognized for his portrayal of John “John-Boy“” Walton, Jr., in the 1970s’ TV series The Waltons, which was based on the real life of writer Earl Hamner, Jr. He appeared in the 1971 pilot The Homecoming, and then played the role continuously in 122 episodes until March 17, 1977. Thomas left the series and his rôle was taken over by Robert Wightman, but Thomas returned to the rôle in three Waltons TV movies, 1993–97. Thomas won an Emmy for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1972. He enrolled in Columbia College of Columbia University as a member of the class of 1973 but left after his junior year.
In 1972, he played against type as murderer and rapist Kenneth Kinsolving in You’ll Like My Mother opposite Patty Duke. He played the lead roles of Private Henry Fleming in the 1974 TV movie The Red Badge of Courage, and Paul Baumer in the 1979 TV movie All Quiet on the Western Front. In further TV movies, he played Col. Warner’s younger son Jim in Roots: The Next Generations (the sequel to the Emmy-winning Roots); the title role in the biopic Living Proof: The Hank Williams, Jr., Story (1983); Will Mossup in Hobson’s Choice (1983); Henry Durrie in The Master of Ballantrae (1984); Martin Campbell in Final Jeopardy (1985); and the adult Bill Denbrough in Stephen King’s It (1990).
In 1980, Thomas made his first Broadway appearance in more than 12 years when he stepped in as a replacement in Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July. In 1993, he played the title role in a stage production of Richard II.
Thomas starred with Maureen O’Hara and Annette O’Toole in the Hallmark Channel movie, The Christmas Box, in 1995. O’Toole and Thomas starred in It five years earlier as the adult Beverly Marsh and adult Bill Denbrough.
Thomas has appeared in a quartet of performances at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut: Hamlet (1987), Peer Gynt (1989), Richard III (1994), and Tiny Alice (1996).
In 1997 and 1998, he appeared on Touched by an Angel.
In the 2000s, he appeared in a London production of Yasmina Reza’s “Art” with Judd Hirsch (2001); on the New York stage in The Public Theater’s production of As You Like It (2005); Michael Frayn’s Democracy on Broadway (2004); and the Primary Stages’ production of Terrence McNally’s The Stendhal Syndrome (2004).
He has served as national chairman of the Better Hearing Institute, hosted the PAX TV series It’s a Miracle, and starred in the series Just Cause for the same network.
In 2006, Thomas began a national tour of Reginald Rose’s acclaimed play Twelve Angry Men, along with George Wendt at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, playing the pivotal role of Juror Eight opposite Wendt’s Juror One.
Thomas has provided voiceovers in Mercedes-Benz, BB&T and Aleve commercials. In the summer of 2008, Thomas made commercials for the Zaxby’s restaurant chain.
In 2009–2010, Richard Thomas was featured on Broadway in Race, a play by David Mamet. The production was directed by Mamet and included James Spader, David Alan Grier and Kerry Washington. In February and March 2011, he starred at the New York Public Theater in Timon of Athens.