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Richard Thomas Revisits ‘The Waltons’ 50 Years Later

Richard Thomas on the set of The CW's 'The Waltons' Homecoming'
Richard Thomas on the set of The CW's 'The Waltons' Homecoming' (Image credit: Tom Griscom/The CW)

Richard Thomas, who played John Boy Walton on The Waltons back in the early ‘70s, is on board for the Waltons movie on The CW Sunday, Nov. 28. The Waltons’ Homecoming is set in 1933. There’s a snowstorm on Christmas Eve as the Walton father tries to get home. John Boy sets out to look for him. 

Thomas is the narrator. Logan Shroyer, who plays a young Kevin Pearson on This Is Us, plays John Boy. Ben Lawson is John Sr. and Bellamy Young is Olivia. Marcelle LeBlanc portrays Mary Ellen. 

His mother Olivia thinks John Boy will help raise his many brothers and sisters, and his father expects him to help support the family financially. John Boy, for his part, wants to be a writer.

At a press event, Thomas was asked what he might’ve said to Shroyer about playing the part. “Have fun and make it yours, and he certainly did,” said Thomas. “I’d be the last person in the world to give advice to another actor about playing a role. You can only be yourself and make it yours.”

Shroyer said Thomas told him, “I’m here as much or as little as you need.”

Sam Haskell, executive producer, said the Waltons movie, the first-ever made-for-TV movie on The CW, arrives at the right time in America. “Putting faith and family and hope and joy front and center is something this world needs right now,” he said. “I believe The Waltons’ Homecoming will bring that to families. This is the kind of programming that brings the entire family together.”

Pictured (L - R): Ben Lawson as John Walton, Bellamy Young as Olivia Walton, Christian Finlayson as Jason Walton, Richard Thomas, Logan Shroyer as John Boy Walton, Tatum Sue Matthews as Erin Walton, Marcelle LeBlanc as Mary Ellen Walton, Samuel Goergon as Jim Bob Walton, and Callaway Corrick as Elizabeth Walton in The CW's 'The Waltons' Homecoming'

Pictured (L - R): Ben Lawson as John Walton, Bellamy Young as Olivia Walton, Christian Finlayson as Jason Walton, Richard Thomas, Logan Shroyer as John Boy Walton, Tatum Sue Matthews as Erin Walton, Marcelle LeBlanc as Mary Ellen Walton, Samuel Goergon as Jim Bob Walton, and Callaway Corrick as Elizabeth Walton in The CW's 'The Waltons' Homecoming' (Image credit: Tom Griscom/The CW)

Thomas noted how the original series played a similar role in America in the ‘70s. “When we first did the series, we were very split,” he said, noting a line “that went right down the middle of the dinner table.”

“One of the great things about the show is, it brought people together,” Thomas added.

Young described the movie, full of “family and love and truth and togetherness,” as “the balm that we all need.”

The Waltons began with 1971 movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. It did well enough that CBS ordered a series. The Waltons lasted for nine seasons. 

Waltons creator Earl Hamner narrated the original series. Thomas mentioned looking at scripts back then, thinking the John Boy narration bits fell to him, and being disappointed to learn he had that wrong. “Fifty years later I got the call,” he said, adding that “Earl’s voice is always in my ear the whole time.”

Thomas said the original Waltons broke through because there was nothing else on TV like it, and because it appealed to the whole family. Kids could compel their parents to watch, he said, and vice versa. 

If the film does well on The CW, there could be more Waltons. “I am open to series, I am open to additional movies,” said Haskell. 

So is Richard Thomas. “I want to see y’all do more things and take it down the road,” he said to the cast. “You’ve made a family and I want to see more of your family.”