Richard Thomas

Active - 1969 - 2021  |   Born - Jun 13, 1951 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Children's/Family

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Richard Thomas was seven years old when he made his first Broadway appearance in Sunrise at Campobello (1958). The wide-eyed, mole-cheeked, sensitive-looking Thomas soon found himself very much in demand for television roles. He was seen in the distinguished company of Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer and Hume Cronyn in a 1959 TV presentation of Ibsen's A Doll's House, worked as a regular on the daytime soap operas As the World Turns and Flame in the Wind, and co-starred with Today Show announcer Jack Lescoulie in the captivating 1961 Sunday-afternoon "edutainment" series 1-2-3 Go. While attending Columbia University, Thomas made his theatrical-film debut in Downhill Racer, then settled into a series of unpleasant, psychologically disturbed characters in films like You'll Like My Mother (1971) and such TV series as Bracken's World. In 1971, Thomas was cast as John-Boy Walton in the Earl Hamner-scripted TV movie The Homecoming. Though there would be a number of cast changes before The Homecoming metamorphosed into the weekly series The Waltons in 1972, Thomas was retained as John-Boy, earning a 1973 Emmy for his performance and remaining in the role until only a few months before the series' cancellation in 1981. During the Waltons years, Thomas starred in several well-mounted TV movies, including the 1979 remake of All Quiet on the Western Front. Ever seeking opportunities to expand his range, Thomas has sunk his teeth into such roles as the self-destructive title character in Living Proof: The Hank Williams Jr. Story (1983) and the amusingly sanctimonious Rev. Bobby Joe in the satirical Glory! Glory!. In 1980, Thomas made his first Broadway appearance in over two decades as the paralyzed protagonist of Whose Life is It Anyway. Notable later roles have included a turn as Bill Denbrough in Stephen King's It (1990), an appearance in Curtis Hanson's 2000 drama Wonder Boys, and a bit part as a reverend in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock (2009). Working through his own Melpomene Productions, Thomas has continued seeking out creative challenges into the 1990s. Richard Thomas has also served as national chairman of the Better Hearing Institute.

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  • Made his Broadway debut at age of 7 in Sunrise at Campobello, playing John Roosevelt, the son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • His parents founded the New York School of Ballet.
  • Left The Waltons after five seasons because his contract was up, but later returned for three TV movies. 
  • A past chairman for the Better Hearing Institute.
  • Has his own production company, Melpomene Productions.