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 CBSdrama The Waltons. During his career, Thomas won an Emmy Award, and received nominations for another Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Awards.
Thomas was born Richard Earl Thomas in New York, the son of Barbara (née Fallis) and Richard S. Thomas, in 1951. His parents were dancers with the New York City Ballet and owned the New York School of Ballet. He attended The Allen Stevenson School and the McBurney School in Manhattan. Thomas was seven when he made his Broadway debut in Sunrise at Campobello (1958) playing John Roosevelt, son of future U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
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.
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 movieThe 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.
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).
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.
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.
Richard Thomas had a supporting role in the FX Network Cold War drama The Americans beginning in January 2013. Thomas plays an FBI counterintelligence supervisor, helping to investigate KGB sleeper agents in early 1980s America.
Thomas married Alma Gonzales on February 14, 1975. They had one son, Richard Francisco, born in 1976, and triplet daughters Barbara Ayala, Gweneth Gonzales and Pilar Alma, born August 26, 1981. They divorced in 1993.
Thomas married Georgiana Bischoff on November 20, 1994. They have one son, Montana James Thomas, born July 28, 1996. At the time she married Thomas, Bischoff had two daughters from previous marriages, Brooke Murphy and Kendra Kneifel. Daughter Kendra Kneifel has since changed her name to Kendra Thomas