10 Things You Didn’t Know About Richard Thomas

In the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City Daniel Beck performs ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ as part of the Witnesses of Christ Christmas Concert 2021.

The 2019 Christmas concerts are almost here!

This year’s guests will include actor Richard Thomas and singer and actress Kelli O’Hara. The concerts will be held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, December 12–14, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

As we look forward to the concerts, here are 10 facts about one of our two talented guests, Richard Thomas.

1. He Made His Broadway Debut at Age 7

Richard Thomas was just seven years old when he made his Broadway debut in Sunrise at Campobello in 1958. On Studio 10 , Thomas was asked if making his Broadway debut at such a young age was slightly terryifying, to which Thomas laughed, “No, it wasn’t terrifying at all! That’s how you know you have the [acting] virus … when you can’t wait to get out there.”

2. The Phrase “Good Night, John-Boy” Based on His Characater Became a Cultural Phenomenon

When the 1972 series The Waltons started they were far back in the ratings and much of the cast never expected that they would be aired past the first season. The program was going up against the extremely popular shows The Mod Squad and The Flip Wilson Show . By the end of the first season, the show skyrocketed in the ratings and fans took to the ending sequence where the family says good night to each other. To this day, people still say “Good night, John-Boy” to Thomas. When asked if the phrase has followed him throughout his career he said, “It’ll happen today at some point. It’ll happen several times today before the end of the day. It’ll be on my tombstone I’m sure.”

If you’re over 40, take a trip down memory lane. If you’re not, here’s some quick history about John-Boy and The Waltons.

3. Spanish Was His First Language

Richard’s parents owned and ran the New York City Ballet. When Richard was a baby, they were living in Havana and dancing in Alicia Alonzo’s ballet company and Spanish became his first language.

4. He Crashed His Car While Thinking of a Speech for the Emmy Awards

Richard was nominated for several awards for his acting over the years. We’re guessing the most memorable—for more than one reason—was his 1973 Emmy for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for playing John-Boy Walton.The day Richard won the award he got in a car accident while thinking of his possible speech. Watch the speech where he mentions the accident:

5. He Was a Chinese Major at Columbia College in New York

According to IMDB Richard changed his major from Literature to Chinese while attending Columbia College during the Vietnam War and the controversy surrounding it. IMDB says, “he was frustrated with the anti-war demonstrations and how they were interupting his education and he felt the best way to avoid such disturbances was to change his major to Chinese.”

6. He Starred in the Original It Miniseries on Television in the 1990s

In recent years, the horror movie It , based on the popular novel by Stephen King, was released in theaters and has even spawned a 2019 sequel. Many people might not realize that long before the 2017 film, It was a made-for-television minseries in 1990. Richard Thomas played Bill Denbrough and starred alongside other popular actors of the era including John Ritter and Tim Curry.

7. He Has Starred in More Than a Dozen Broadway Shows

Richard was born in New York City and literally grew up in and around the theater. In a Wall Street Journal article, he recounted, “I was a backstage baby. In the 1950s, my parents were dancers with the Ballets Russes and New York’s Ballet Theatre…They frequently took me to work.” In 2017, he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his work in The Little Foxes . Here’s the impressive list of productions he has starred in:

Sunrise at Campobello
Strange Interlude
The Playroom
Everything in the Garden
Fifth of July
The Front Page
Love Letters
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way
RaceAn Enemy of the People
You Can’t Take It with You
The Little Foxes
The Great Society

8. He Starred in Orange Juice Commercials with His Triplet Daughters and Son

In the mid-1980s Richard remained a household name thanks in part to a series of memorable Minute Maid Orange Juice commercials. In the 30-second spots he interacted with his his own triplet daughters and son.

9. He is a Zen Practicioner

Zen practices are designed to take the rational and intellectual mind out of a certain line of thought, so that students can become more aware and realize their own enlightened nature. Richard began practicing meditation only about 12 years ago despite the fact that he was a Chinese major at college in the 1970s.

10. He Lives with a Hearing Disease Called Cochlear Otosclerosis

When Richard was in his 30s, he was diagnosed with cochlear otosclerosis. It is a condition which is primarily a bone disorder that affects the bones of the middle ear. Because of the condition, Richard lost 50% of his hearing and wears hearing aids. He is a strong advocate of hearing health and serves as the national chairman of the ‘Better Hearing Institute.’