How God Saved I LOVE LUCY Child Star Amid Hollywood’s Pressure to Fit In
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
Keith Thibodeaux, who was billed as Richard Keith, grew to childhood stardom for his role in I LOVE LUCY. However, the actor and drummer noted that even those in the Golden Age of Hollywood were susceptible to fall into immorality.
“I was about 4 and a half at the time, and my dad said, ‘Keith, this is really important, this is a really big show in Hollywood,'” Thibodeaux said in an interview with CBN. “I knew from my father’s explanation of it that it was it was something big.”
“Lucy comes up and said ‘Well he’s cute but what does he do?’ and my dad said, ‘Well he’s a drummer,’ and she says, ‘Oh, come on,'” Thibodeaux added of his audition. “So they happen to have a set of drums on the set and she said, ‘There are some drums. Let’s see what he does.'”
While Thibodeaux played the drum set, the producer walked over and joined a young Thibodeaux on the kit.
“Sheldon Leonard who was the producer, big producer at Desilu studios, he came over and was watching me play and then finally Desi came over and began to jam with me on the set, and he stood up and laughed, and he said, ‘I think we found little Ricky,'” Thibodeaux recalled.
That convinced Leonard that Thibodeaux would play little Ricky Ricardo on I LOVE LUCY for the next four years. Shortly after his stint on the classic show, Thibodeaux got the part of Johnny Paul on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.
After his family moved to Hollywood and Thibodeaux’s career continued to grow, he asked his father why.
“I began to ask my dad, ‘Why did God pick me to do this? He could have picked any little boy to play the part of little Ricky.’
“My dad said, ‘Well, God’s got a purpose for you Keith,'” Thibodeau recalled. “That always stuck in my mind… way back when I felt like God had his eyes on me.”
But after a seemingly successful start as a child star, Thibodeaux’s life would take a turn for the worse.
“My dad was unfaithful to my mother. My whole life came crashing down when that happened. I thought our family was one unit, and all of a sudden it was not. The dad that I thought I had was not the dad that he was,” Thibodeaux shared. “I was mad at my father, and I was very mad at just the world and everything. Show business was part of the problem. I felt like if I hadn’t gotten the part on the I LOVE LUCY show, we would still be in Louisiana and our family would be together. But God was eventually the one who I really shook my fist at.”
As a teenager, Thibodeaux leaned into the life of pleasure and excess that Hollywood offered.
“My friends began to do drugs and so I began to just get in with them and just I wanted to be cool,” Thibodeaux recalled. “I knew that there was a supernatural world. I began to dabble with Ouija boards and just reading books about warlocks and my life from that point on began to to really take a downward spiral.
“I began to be tormented by these voices and these were demonic voices that were telling me to kill myself and and nobody likes you and you are just just nobody,” Thibodeaux continued.
Despite contemplating suicide, Thibodeaux remembered the words that his father had spoken to him as a child: God had a purpose for his life.
“I cried out to God and I said, ‘If You’re real… if You save me and take me out of this this mess that I made of my life, then I’ll serve You,” Thibodeau said.
As Thibodeaux searched for a relationship with God, he began to attend church with his mother.
“I prayed and I fell into a trance or a vision, I don’t know any other word to explain it, and there was this light that was in the distance and as they got closer to me I could realize that there was a man and that person revealed himself as Jesus.
“I said, ‘Jesus, I’m not worthy for You to appear to me in such a way. What about this sin?’ Jesus responded to me in that light and He said, ‘That’s why I died,'” Thibodeau said. “I came up out of the vision and I had a whole new perspective on who God was and who Jesus Christ was and what that meant to me and and what He did for me on the cross and dying for my sins and taking my sins.”
Miraculously, God helped Thibodeaux quit drugs, and as he read God’s Word, the demonic voices stopped, too.
“The more of the Word of God that I put in me, the less I heard of those voices, and the more I began to hold on to the truth of Jesus,” Thibodeau said.
After his salvation, Thibodeaux joined the secular band David and the Giants as a drummer, where he could not help but share his faith.
“I began to continually talk to them about Jesus,” Thibodeaux explained. “One night, David finally heard me and he came to the Lord and the other guys in the band, his brothers also, began to believe in Jesus and so in 1977, we began to be a Christian band.”
From that point forward, Thibodeaux knew that his purpose was to use his talent to share the gospel with the world.
“God used David and the Giants, just to change people’s lives,” Thibodeaux said. “Just to encourage people and to convict people not through what we do but through what the Holy Spirit does through us. It’s all about Jesus, it’s all about him.”
Thibodeaux now runs a ballet company with his wife where they travel around the country and present the Gospel through ballet.
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