By Vince Gerasole

(CBS) — “The Waltons” is one of the most beloved television shows of all time.

One of the stars is now in Chicago to appear onstage in a different kind of family drama.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole sat down with actor Richard Thomas.

The Waltons were a large Virginia mountain family struggling through the Great Depression, and Thomas, as oldest son “John Boy,” was its centerpiece.

There was a time when your face was among the top five recognized faces in the country,” Gerasole tells Thomas.

“I still recognize it every morning,” the actor replies, laughing.

For nearly a decade, the show focusing was an unexpected hit as the Vietnam War and the sexual revolution re-defined American life.

“We were in the middle of the beginning of an incredible period of divisiveness — generational, political,” Thomas says. “We were kind of co-opted, politically, as a show that sort of represented good American values.”

Thomas, a youthful-looking 66, is in town starring in the play “The Humans,” also about multi-generational family dynamics. Now, as the nation again faces political divides, Thomas reflects on how “The Waltons” once drew people together.

“Even though there was strife and there was dissension, there was always healing and the idea that we were all in it together,” he says.

“The Waltons” was famous for its closing, as family members would say goodnight to each other. The phrase “Good night, John Boy” was a part of the culture.

Thomas says he was once told by a Vietnam War prisoner of war that POWs would go through a similar roll call to make sure everyone was OK.

For more information about the one-act play’s run, click here.