This Is the Real Reason Richard Thomas Left 'The Waltons' All Those Years Ago

Samantha Faragalli Younghans - Author

Apr. 23 2020, Updated 2:08 p.m. ET

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The Waltons was one of the most popular shows of the 1970s, so it's no surprise that after all these years, fans are still talking about the hit series. One of the most attractive aspects of The Waltons was the loveable, star-studded cast, specifically Richard Thomas, who portrayed John-Boy Walton from 1972 until his departure after Season 5 in 1977. 

So, why did Richard Thomas leave The Waltons before the show ended? Scroll down for everything we know!

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Why did Richard Thomas leave 'The Waltons'?

It seems Richard Thomas simply left The Waltons more than 40 years ago to pursue other interests, as there have been no records of any sort of falling out he had with the show or the network. In fact, even though he left after five seasons, he returned with a few guest appearances in Season 6 and in a slew of 1990s movies adapted from the show.

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At the end of Richard's storyline as John-Boy on The Waltons, after graduating college, he moves to NYC to become an author. He later enlists in the military following the attack of Pearl Harbor and becomes a war correspondent.

"John-Boy was a new kind of male protagonist on television," he gushed over his character to Entertainment Weekly at the cast's 30-year reunion. "That kind of sensitive, feeling man was about as different as a central male character could be on an hour-long series.” 

Although Richard's time on the show ended, the series wasn't quite ready to give up on John-Boy's captivating story. That said, for Seasons 8 and 9, Richard was replaced by actor Robert Wightman. When the character was reintroduced, he's missing in action. So it turned out, he was in a bad plane crash while at war, which forced him to return home for treatment. 

He soon bounced back as a news reporter and ended up marrying the love of his life, Janet, at the end of the show.

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Although Richard concluded John-Boy's storyline, the series creator, Earl Hamner Jr., always raved about Richard's performance. "He was marvelous, and as it turned out, he was perfect in the role," Earl once told MeTV. "I often said he made a better John-Boy than I did being me. He was just perfect."

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Although Richard admitted that the character of John-Boy was "very rich to play," he did say in the same interview that "there are no words to express what I owe Earl Hamner," proving that the two always got along and had a mutual respect for one another despite Richard's exit from the show.

After leaving The Waltons, Richard continued his successful career with a plethora of other roles including Roots: The Next Generations, Promised Land, The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson, It's a Miracle, Just Cause, The Americans, Billions, Tell Me Your Secrets, NCIS: New Orleans, and more. 

Here's hoping Richard considers doing a reboot of The Waltons one of these days! 

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