Richard Thomas played John-Boy on the popular 1970s TV series The Waltons. But the Emmy-winner actor also had a behind-the-scenes role as the director of multiple episodes. The experience taught him some important lessons that have helped him as an actor, he recently said.
Richard Thomas opened up about directing several episodes of ‘The Waltons’
Recently, Thomas chatted with his Waltons co-star Judy Norton in a series of videos she shared on her YouTube channel. During their conversation, he reminisced about trying his hand at directing a few episodes of the show.
“I never envisioned myself as a director,” he said. “But I realized that the safest opportunity you could possibly have to experience being a director is if you are on a show with a crew and a director of photography and assistant directors and producers around you who you know will really, really make it hard for you to do anything really terrible.”
‘The Waltons’ cast member indulged in a directing cliché his first time behind the camera
Thomas directed five episodes of The Waltons, starting with season 3’s “The Song.” Though Thomas had a friendly crew looking out for him, he still managed to make a rookie mistake his first time behind the camera.
“That first show I did…,” he said, hiding his face with his hands. “John Walton went and got a job in the city, in an office or something. I had it all set up, as everybody does, this big master shot. It was gonna be one take. The camera was gonna move around and every[thing]. It’s the ultimate cliché of a first-time director … and I could see the crew just looking, ‘Oh no, he’s gonna do that. He’s gonna do that to us.’”
Thomas explained that he thought his setup would save time. But he was dead wrong. “It took longer to shoot that one master than it would’ve taken to shoot that scene three times over if we’d done the standard cutting and masters and closeups and overs,” he admitted. “So I really learned that lesson.”
“It was such a typical thing for a first-time to do,” he added, laughing.
Thomas said directing episodes of the classic TV show was a learning experience
Thomas told Norton that he approached directing as a learning experience.
“I was never like, ‘Oh, now I’m gonna launch my directing career,” he said. “I was never ambitious for that.”
However, the experience was helpful for him as an actor because it “was putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
“So after having directed, when I would work then subsequently, I would really be able to have a clearer picture of what the director was actually going through or the challenges of being a director,” he shared.
“I always had respect for directors,” he added. “But after that, I think I had a greater understanding of what they’re up against and what their process is.”
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