10 Questions with… Richard Thomas

You’ve had an incredible career, but to many people, you’re still John-Boy Walton. Does that get old?

Well, it is old. In fact, it’s 50 years, but I love it. I love the association and am proud of that show and that character. I always take such delight when people remember it and talk about what it meant to them. The longer it goes on, the more I value those comments.

From “The Waltons” to more recent roles in “The Americans” and “Ozark,” your career has enjoyed a lot of longevity. Do you have tips for staying relevant?

I’m an actor for hire. I’ve been lucky and had an opportunity to play lots of different roles. The one thing I would say is that I have always fought hard to maintain the amount of time I spend on stage. The theater is so important to me, and that’s been very rewarding.

You’re currently in the national Broadway tour of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” With all of the theater closures due to COVID, what’s it like to be back on stage?

It’s wonderful to be on stage and in the room with an audience. There’s nothing like it. I love the different cities I’ve gotten to know, the audiences in those cities, and the beautiful theaters that we get to play.

You’re playing Atticus Finch in the production. What does that role mean to you?

Atticus is a sort of iconic character, and that’s great. But what makes it a joy and important for me is Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation and the way he’s adapted the role for the stage. Every night for three hours, I have a wonderful piece of writing to bring to life. That’s what makes this particular iteration of Atticus so vital to me.

You’re in Philly now and will be touring through next July. Do you like being on the road?

I love the road. I mean, it’s very intense work. You’re not at home, and a lot of the time, your day off is the day that you’re traveling from one city to another.  As you get older, the road’s challenges become a little more acute. I just become more monkish and quiet — especially with a big role like this.

What does it mean to be touring with this show, in particular?

Bringing a play like “To Kill a Mockingbird” around the country nowadays is very gratifying and exciting. This particular material and the particular themes it addresses are so sadly pertinent to bring around the country.

You’ll be coming to Gammage in December. Have you spent a lot of time in Arizona?

Well, I met my wife in Arizona. I met her in Scottsdale while I was there doing “Love Letters” about 30 years ago. So I have profoundly fond and romantic memories of Arizona. 

What do you like to do while you’re here?

My wife has many relatives living in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, so when we come to Tempe, it’s always family time, which is great. 

What else are you working on these days?

I’ve been involved with the revival of “The Waltons” on The CW.  A new version of our “Homecoming” Christmas movie was made with a new cast and I was asked to do the on-camera introductions and narration. I’ve just done the narration for a new Thanksgiving special, and there’s going to be another Easter special. I’m very involved in that and excited to be carrying that forward.

Is there anything you’d like Frontdoors readers to know about you or this production of “To Kill a Mockingbird”? 

I don’t like to tell people to go see a show. But I’m telling people to go see it. It’s a fantastic cast. It’s wonderfully entertaining, as well as an important piece of theater. I think it’s an opportunity for families to experience it with middle- and high school-aged children and remember how meaningful this particular novel was in their lives. I think that folks in Arizona will love it, and I’m so excited to be coming there.

For more information, visit asugammage.com/mockingbird.  

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.

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