Richard Thomas to Lead National Tour of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (Exclusive)

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Richard Thomas

The 60-year stage and screen veteran will take on the role of upstanding Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch when Aaron Sorkin's record-breaking Broadway drama hits the road next summer.

All rise, there's a new Atticus Finch in the courtroom.

Richard Thomas will step into the iconic role of the staunchly principled small-town Alabama lawyer when Aaron Sorkin's blockbuster Broadway adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel embarks on a two-year, coast-to-coast tour next summer, producer Scott Rudin announced today.

The production, directed by Bartlett Sher, will launch its national road company Aug. 25, 2020 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., with additional cities, dates and casting to be announced. The tour is expected to hit virtually every state in the country.

To Kill a Mockingbird opened to stellar reviews Dec. 13 at New York's Shubert Theatre following six weeks of previews and has not played to a single unsold seat since its first performance. The production recently became the highest-grossing American play in Broadway history, with grosses to date of $42 million, not including an additional $22 million-plus in advance sales.

Jeff Daniels received a Tony Award nomination for his performance as Atticus in the Broadway company, one of nine nominations notched up by the production. The play also is up for best director, featured actor and actress, original score, scenic design, costumes, lighting and sound.

"I'm thrilled to have been invited to play Atticus Finch," said Thomas in a statement. "To be entrusted with the opportunity of bringing one of our greatest American stories to our great American playhouses across the country is a privilege. The play has galvanized audiences with its timeliness and its timelessness, and to join the ranks of the tremendous Jeff Daniels and Aaron Sorkin in carrying on the legacy of Harper Lee is a great honor. I'm a very happy actor and I can't wait to get started."

"I've been an enormous admirer and passionate fan of Richard's for most of my life," Rudin told The Hollywood Reporter. "We worked together years ago in Wonder Boys and again last year in The Humans and he was remarkable in both. I realized when we did The Humans on tour with him how much I had missed working with Richard. He is a wonderful man, a great actor, a perfect company leader and a true citizen of the theater. He comes from a generation that believed in the importance of the road, and that loved taking plays across the country every year. It's a lost and beloved ethic, except for the fact that it is completely alive in him." 

Among the most venerated characters in American literature, Atticus takes on the defense of a poor black sharecropper falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lee's enduring story of racial injustice and childhood innocence shattered. Set in 1934, the novel was first published in 1960 and has never been out of print, selling some 45 million copies to date.

Television viewers around the world of a certain age still associate Thomas with his Emmy-winning role as another beloved character from the Depression-era South who, like Atticus, is a permanent fixture in American popular culture: "John-Boy" Walton, the eldest son of the rural Virginia family on the long-running 1970s CBS drama The Waltons. More recently, he played FBI counterintelligence supervisor Frank Gaad for four seasons on FX's The Americans.

Thomas made his Broadway debut at age seven in 1958's Sunrise at Campobello and his television debut around the same time, beginning a professional acting career that has continued for more than 60 years. He has returned regularly to Broadway over the decades, most recently in a celebrated 2017 revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes that earned him a Tony nomination for best featured actor in a play.

In addition to playing a range of classical roles on stages around the country, Thomas includes among his recent Broadway credits Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's You Can't Take It With You, Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People and David Mamet's Race.

"We are incredibly fortunate that Richard Thomas has agreed to be our Atticus across America, because he is simply one of the best stage actors in America," said director Sher. "He has the soul, kindness and fire of idealism that the part demands, and I think audiences across the country will get an enormous gift in his Atticus."