‘I Love Lucy’: Little Ricky Actor Keith Thibodeaux Excessively Misused Drugs Before Turning His Life Around
Actor Keith Thibodeaux played the adorable son of fictional couple Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy.
Beginning in 1955, he played the role of Little Ricky on the iconic comedy series as well as on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
After a small role on The Andy Griffith Show ended in 1966, so did Thibodeaux’s career. The actor explained to the Archive of American Television, that this was when depression set in, as well as his use of recreational drugs.
His life eventually turned around in a positive direction as he described it.
Thibodeaux didn’t love playing the role of ‘Little Ricky’
Keith Thibodeaux admitted in a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television that, while the role of Little Ricky had its perks, such as meeting Superman, there was one aspect of the part that as a young child himself he didn’t like.
“Little Ricky was a character that I didn’t really enjoy playing the part of, just being Keith” he said. “I wanted to play, in my fantasies, something like a Huckleberry Finn or a Tom Sawyer, somebody like that.
“Even Leave It To Beaver, that was better to me than playing Little Ricky, because [Little Ricky] was more of a goody-goody kind of character.”
Thibodeaux had to admit that there was one good side to playing Little Ricky.
“The only good thing about Little Ricky was that he could play the drums,” he said. “That was kind of the cool part of Little Ricky.”
He experienced depression after his acting career ended
I Love Lucy ended in 1957, after which Thibodeaux was kept on in the role of Little Ricky for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour until that series ended in 1960. He moved on to The Andy Griffith Show in 1962 playing Opie Taylor’s best friend Johnny Paul Jason. This role lasted 13 episodes until 1966, when acting roles petered out for Thibodeaux.
The actor who was from the age of 3 a drummer went back to his first love of music, joining the rock band David and the Giants in 1969. But he soon found himself experiencing for the first time in his life a deep melancholy.
“One of my best friends, an incredible musician, he basically became a vegetable almost on drugs,” he shared. “And this affected me a lot. I was doing the same things he was and I was beginning to get into what is now known as a clinical depression.
“Even though I never went to a doctor, that’s what I had. I began to have anxiety attacks, panic attacks, this was around 1970-1974.”
Thibodeaux knew he was desperate for help, and it had to be a seismic change.
“At this point, I knew I needed a miracle in my life,” he said. “The atomic bomb that had blown up my life, I needed something of equal or more power to get me back.
“My mother invited me to a church meeting in Louisiana. It was in this meeting that I became a Christian, that Jesus Christ came into my life.”
Thibodeaux’s bandmates in David and the Giants noticed the change in him.
The former child actor’s life began to change dramatically.
“Little by little, I began to come out of my drug delirium. I began to tell my friends about my experiences and they said, ‘Something’s changed about you.’ They thought I’d gone on some other drug.”
David and the Giants, which had played rock music, began playing “more uplifting music,” Thibodeaux said.
The other band members one by one embraced Christianity, according to the drummer and the band changed their musical style to Christian rock, serving as pioneers in the Christian pop genre. They toured internationally and around the United States, recording nine albums in total.
Eventually, Thibodeaux left the band in 1990 to open a ballet dance center with his wife of 30 years, a classically trained ballet dancer.
“The foundation that I didn’t realize I never had, I had now,” he said. “It gave me purpose, it gave me another chance.”