When on I Love Lucy the character of Little Ricky was introduced, viewers fell in love with baby Ricky and toddler Ricky.
Once a steady child actor was brought on the now-iconic program to play school-age Little Ricky, he was welcomed for his adorable likeness with star Desi Arnaz as well as his incredible drumming skills.
Here’s how Little Ricky actor Keith Thibodeaux got cast in the role.
Keith Thibodeaux felt forced to socialize with Desi Jr.
Although Keith Thibodeaux and Desi Arnaz Jr eventually became good friends, the Little Ricky actor told the New York Post shared that he was not given a choice about it at first. As a young child, he’d wanted to be with his own friends.
“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, ‘I don’t want to go! I want to be with my friends!’”
The pressure Keith Thibodeaux felt even as a young child
Thibodeaux explained that, even at his young age, he was aware of the dynamics involved considering that Ball was his employer. He realized the mother of two wanted him along for a simple reason: she had a hard time being open to anyone else playing with her children.
“I always enjoyed my time over there once I got there,” he recalled. “Desi [Jr.] and I were good friends; I just had to be a kind of different person because on the one hand Lucille Ball was my boss and at the same time she was my friend’s mom.
“There were very few people that Lucy and Desi trusted to play with their kids and they were very protective of them. I went and spent a Christmas with the Arnazes in Palm Springs which I didn’t want to do because I wanted to be with my family. It was a very kind of lonely feeling not to be with my family when I was so young.”
Desi Sr. knew when he’d found his Little Ricky
Keith Thibodeaux’s father brought him to audition for I Love Lucy. Since there was a drum set on the show’s set, he sat down and astounded cast and crew with his percussion talent.
Thibodeaux in a 2005 conversation with the Archive of American Television explained how he beat out 500 other actors for the role of Little Ricky.
“Everyone wanted to know what the commotion was, and Sheldon Leonard, the director for The Danny Thomas Show and other shows came over and was enjoying this little kid playing,” he said.
“Then finally, Desi Arnaz himself came over and started jamming with me on the drums and playing with me. He stood up and laughed in his way and said, ‘I think we’ve found Little Ricky.’”
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