Little Ricky. Last surviving cast member of “I Love Lucy,” TV’s Biggest Hit of 1950.
I Love Lucy was one of TV’s biggest hits throughout the 1950s. But, given that the show went off the air over 60 years ago, the main cast members, including Lucille Ball (Lucy), Desi Arnaz (Ricky), Vivian Vance (Ethel), and William Frawley (Fred), have since passed away. Now, only one cast member who had a regular, credited role on I Love Lucy is still alive: Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky.
Or, you could say, he played one of the Little Rickys. The character of Lucy and Ricky’s son was played by six different actors: Thibodeaux, another child actor, and two sets of twins. Thibodeaux, who was using the stage name Richard Keith, played the oldest version of Little Ricky during the sixth and seventh seasons of the show and is the actor who is best known for the role. Now, the former child star is 72 years old and has moved on to far different careers. Read on to find out more about his life since I Love Lucy.
Thibodeaux was cast in the series in 1955.
According to The Post-Journal, Thibodeaux auditioned for I Love Lucy in 1955 and was up against 200 other young actors for the role. The five-year-old landed the gig after showing that he could also play the drums.
“I walked on the set and there was Lucy, she was standing there and she was looking at me,” Thibodeaux told ABC News in 2015. “She said ‘OK he’s cute, but what does he do?’ My dad said, ‘Well he plays the drums’ and she said, ‘Oh, come on—I can’t believe that.’ Then, she says, ‘Look, we have a drum set over there, go ahead and let him play.’ Eventually Desi Arnaz himself came over and started jamming with me on the drums and then he kind of stood up and said, ‘Well, I think we found Little Ricky.'”
Thibodeaux went on to appear on 23 episodes of I Love Lucy and 13 episodes of the sequel series The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
He kept acting for a little while after the show went off the air.
Thibodeaux isn’t a working actor today, but he did keep taking roles for some years after I Love Lucy ended. He had small parts on several TV series and appeared in multiple episodes of The Andy Griffith Show in the ’60s.
Thibodeaux told ABC News that he became depressed in the years that followed, and it affected how he viewed I Love Lucy. “I do kind of look at it like a time of my life where I wasn’t able to fully be a kid, but that’s a problem with child stars—that dynamic is always in the mix,” he explained. “I was very depressed and suicidal and got to the end of my rope and became a Christian in 1974. That kind of changed my perspective on the show. After that, I was able to appreciate the show much more than I did when I was a young adult.”
Thibodeaux joined the band David and the Giants in 1967, then left several years later when he became a Christian and wanted the band to perform Christian songs, as reported by the Clarion Ledger. A few years after that, the band did get into Christian rock, and Thibodeaux rejoined. He left again in 1989 and rejoined again in the 2000s. David and the Giants’ most recent album, What Are You Waiting For?, was released in 2019.
He’s also involved in the dance world.
Thibodeaux’s wife, Kathy Thibodeaux, is a ballet dancer. The couple co-founded Ballet Magnificat!, a Christian dance company based in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1986; Keith is the executive director. According to the company’s website, they opened a location in Brazil in 2007. The Thibodeauxs have been married since 1976 and have a daughter, Tara, and a grandson named Bryson.
He looks back fondly on I Love Lucy today.
In his interview with ABC News, Thibodeaux looked back on his time on I Love Lucy. “It’s held up all these years,” he said of the series. “I just think that to be associated with the show, it’s a good thing. I can say, in a humble way, that I don’t think it’s ever been matched.”
He also talked to The Post-Journal about how the show is still getting new fans all these years later. “I am surprised,” he explained. “When a 10-year-old, 12-year-old, 14, they come up to me and say what a fan they are and how much they have enjoyed the show. During such a creative time in everything that was going on, I Love Lucy sat on top of all that—it’s just a quality thing that holds up.”
In a more recent interview, he opened up about the cast. “It was an amazing show, lots of energy. It was a very professional set and just being able to act with Lucy and Desi and William and Viv in that format, it was just an amazing opportunity,” the former actor told WTVA 9 News in 2022.