For Keith Thibodeaux, the child actor who portrayed Little Ricky on I Love Lucy, his time on the classic television comedy will always be a treasured memory.
Born in 1950, Thibodeaux reflected on the member of the cast with whom he felt the most rapport during the show’s six-season run.
Lucille Ball’s children and Keith Thibodeaux were close friends
Thibodeaux and the children of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Jr. and Lucie Arnaz – were very close. In fact, Ball would request that Thibodeaux come and play with her son. As a young person himself, the Little Ricky actor wanted nothing more than to be with his own friends, not with people who reminded him of his weekday obligations, as he told The New York Post in 2019.
“I had two lives: my normal life with my friends at school … and this other life when I was on the set,” he said. “I was introduced to Lucy and Desi’s children, Lucy and Desi Jr., and I would go and spend a weekend with them in Beverly Hills or on their ranch or in their Palm Springs house.
“When my dad said, ‘Lucy or Little Desi wants you to come over for the weekend,’ I would always be kind of dragging my feet and complaining and crying,” he said. “To me that was real life and [going to their house] was not the real life, but I always enjoyed my time over there once I got there. Desi Jr. and I were good friends.”
Keith Thibodeaux connected most to this ‘I Love Lucy’ cast mate
Surprisingly, the person the actor felt the greatest bond with on I Love Lucy wasn’t Lucille Ball herself or Vivian Vance. It was Desi Arnaz, as he said in his conversation with The New York Post. From his perspective as a child actor, it seems he felt Arnaz well understood Thibodeaux’s own experience as a minority and as a performer.
“I really think the person I identified with the most was Desi Arnaz because of his Latin culture; I was a Cajun from Louisiana and our cultures were very similar, and the fact that he was a percussionist and I was a percussionist, we had something in common. When he died [in 1986] I really took his death harder than anyone else’s.”
The actor recalled Arnaz showing him great regard, even though he was the youngest member of the cast.
Thibodeaux told the Archive of American Television in 2005 that Arnaz “made me feel comfortable on the set. I wasn’t as close to Lucy as I was to Desi. He was always nice to me. He was always respectful of me, almost. For that matter, Lucy and Desi never said an unkind word to me. They took me in as part of the family.”