Here’s What Happened to Keith Thibodeaux Before, During and After Little Ricky on ‘I Love Lucy’

The big television event of 1953 — and pretty much all of 1950s TV — was the birth of “Little Ricky” Ricardo on the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Classic TV comedy I Love Lucy, and actor Keith Thibodeaux (who was billed as Richard Keith) would be impacted by that event three years later when, as a child, he was cast in the role for what would be the show’s final season as well as the subsequent The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

In an interview with the New York Post, Keith related that, during that time, he lived something of a “divided” life which could feel schizophrenic. Pointing out that the show didn’t film throughout the entire year, there was off time which allowed him to attend a regular school (West Hollywood’s St. Victor’s).

“I had two lives,” Keith said. “My normal life with my friends at school and this other life when I was on the set. I was introduced to Lucy and Desi’s children, Lucie 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, ‘Lucie 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.’ 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.”

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CBS Television Distribution

Noting that he and Desi Jr. were good friends, he was forced into the position of being a different person than he really was, because Lucille Ball was not only the mother of his friend, she was his boss at work. At the same time, there weren’t a lot of people Lucille and Desi would trust to play with their kids, so he was definitely a part of the inner circle and, in fact, would go on trips with them, including one to Disneyland where he was impressed that Lucille was able to whisk them to the front of the line of rides — and amused by the people who would comment that it was Lucy with Little Ricky. “People always confused me and Desi Jr.,” he says.

In an in-depth interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Keith elaborated on this, noting, “We had this sort of camaraderie between us. We practically grew up together and spent a lot of time together, experiencing a lot of things together. But there was also this competition in that I was really who he was and I was sort of playing who he was. When people would see us together, they would say, ‘Who’s this?’ You know, ‘This is Desi. This is Lucy’s real son. This is their TV son, Ricky.’ So it was surprising to people sometimes, but back then it wasn’t that big of a thing.”

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