From Family Affair to Drug Policy: The Life of Johnny Whitaker

March 22, 2024
5 mins read

Who is Johnny Whitaker?

American actor, screenwriter and director John Orson ‘Johnny’ Whitaker Jr.. was born in Van Nuys, California USA, on 13 December 1959, making Sagittarius his zodiac sign. He’s had roles in nearly 50 movies and TV series, and is probably still best known for playing the lead character Tom Sawyer in the eponymous 1973 family adventure musical movie, directed by Don Taylor, and which also starred Celeste Holm and Warren Oates. It follows Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer as they’re investigating a graveyard murder, and the movie was nominated for eight awards, including three Oscars for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Best Music, Scoring Original Song and Best Costume Design.

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Education and early life

Johnny was raised in Van Nuys alongside his four younger and three older siblings, by their father John O. Whitaker Sr. and mother Thelma; not a lot is known about Johnny’s family, because he respects their privacy.

He was thrown into the film industry by his parents, as he was three when he made his debut TV series appearance, playing Scotty Baldwin in the 1963 romantic crime drama “General Hospital”, while the same year saw him appear in a commercial for a user-car dealership; the following couple of years saw Johnny appear in commercials for toys Crackers the Parrot, and Larry the Lion.

Although focused on acting, he still continued to work on his education; he matriculated from Sylmar High School in 1978, and then enrolled at Brigham Young University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1982.


Roles in TV series

In 1965, Johnny appeared in the episode “Question: Is Democracy Too Expensive This Year?” of the drama “Slattery’s People”, while he appeared in an episode of a number of series by the end of the decade, including the westerns “Bonanza” and “Lancer”, and the fantasy comedy “Bewitched”.

From 1966 through 1971, Johnny played Jonathan ‘Jody’ Patterson-Davis in the popular comedy “Family Affair”, which Don Fedderson and Edmund L. Hartmann created, and which starred Anissa Jones, Kathy Garver and Brian Keith. It follows Bill who’s just welcomed a group of long-term guests, and the series won one of its 19 award nominations.

In 1973 and 1974, he portrayed the lead character Johnny Stuart in the family comedy “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters”, created by Marty Krofft and Sid Krofft, and which also starred Scott C. Kolden and Billy Barty. It follows the adventures of two boys and their friends who happen to be sea monsters. The remainder of the ‘70s saw Johnny appear in only three TV series, an episode of the drama “Mobile One”, the family comedy “Mulligan’s Stew” and the drama “Insight”.

Johnny had only three TV series roles in the ‘80s, 90’s and 2000s: he played Mailman in the 1985 episode “Out in the Cold” of the crime drama “Hollywood Beat”, Judd Fuller in the 1998 episode “The Motorcycle/Blind Man’s Dog” of the mystery thriller “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction”, and Kevin in the 2002 episode “Holiday Fever” of the comedy “Family Affair”.

In 2015, he appeared in the episode “Child Star Support Group Part 2” of the comedy “The Comeback Kids”, and the year 2017 saw him in five episodes of the family comedy “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters”, which follows sea monster Sigmund who’s befriended the children Robyn, Scotty and Johnny.

Johnny’s two most recent TV series roles have been in the 2019 episode “Burbank!?” of the comedy “The MissAdventures of Camp Elaine”, and the 2021 episode “Johnny” of the comedy “TV Therapy”; he’s currently shooting for the upcoming series “The Last Evangelist”.


Roles in movies

Johnny’s debut film role was playing Jerry Maxwell in the 1966 war comedy “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming”, which Norman Jewison directed, and which starred Alan Arkin, Eva Marie Saint and Carl Reiner. It follows the crew of a Soviet submarine which has just run aground off New England, and the movie won five of its 18 award nominations, including four Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Picture, amongst others.

Johnny’s following three movie roles were in the 1966 comedy “And Baby Makes Three”, the 1969 family fantasy “The Littlest Angel”, and the 1972 family drama “The Biscuit Eater”. In 1975, he voiced a character in the animated adventure comedy “The Humpbacked Horse”, directed by Ivan Ivanov-Vano and Boris Butakov, and which starred Jim Backus, Aleksey Gribov and Mariya Vinogradova. It follows the lives of little Ivanushka and his magic horse.

Johnny’s following movie role came nearly 30 years later, in 2011, when cast to play Craig Peterson in the comedy “Growing Up Normal”, while he could then have been heard voicing characters in the 2013 family fantasy comedy “A Talking Cat!?!”, the 2013 fantasy comedy “A Talking Pony!?!”, and the 2014 thriller comedy “Knock ‘em Dead”.

His most recent film role has been playing Earl in the 2018 horror “Prepper’s Grove”, but which failed to attract any attention.

Other credits

Johnny wrote and directed the 2016 documentary movie “Johnny Whitaker’s Drug Policy in Portugal Documentary”.

Some of the talk-shows in which he’s recently made a guest appearance include “Autopsy: The Last Hours Off”, “The Hollywood Moment at Home Edition” and “Sundays with Sid”.


Awards and nominations

Johnny won a Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 Young Artist Awards.

Love life and wife

Johnny can rarely be heard speaking about his love life in public, but it’s still widely known that he was once a married man. He exchanged vows with non-celebrity American Symbria Wright on 15 June 1984, in a small and private ceremony, but they divorced in 1988; it’s widely believed that it was Johnny’s drug and alcohol addiction that led to their divorce, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

Johnny hasn’t spoken of the women whom he’s been with since his and Symbria’s divorce, but it’s believed that he’s been in a number of relationships, some with popular American actresses.

He seems to be unattached as of March 2023, was once married to Symbria Wright, and doesn’t have children.

Interesting facts and hobbies

In either the second half of the ‘80s or the first half of the ‘90s, Johnny’s family threatened to cut off all ties with him unless he admitted himself to a rehab facility; he thus joined a twelve-step program, and eventually became a certified drug counselor. Johnny’s also founded the non-profit organization for drug addicts, Paso Por Paso.

He likes to learn languages, and is fluid in American Sign Language, French, Spanish and Portuguese, aside from English.

Johnny’s sister Dori’s today a well-known talent agent working in Hollywood, California.

He’s a huge fan of rock ‘n’ roll, and his favorite bands are AC/DC and Aerosmith.

Johnny’s favorite actors are Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins, while some of his favorite movies include “The Silence of the Lambs”, the trilogy “The Godfather” and “The Father”.


Height, eyes and wealth

Johnny’s age is 63. He has blue eyes and brown hair, is 6ft (1.82m) tall and weighs around 200lbs (90kgs).

Johnny’s net worth’s been estimated at over $2 million, as of March 2023.

Olivia Wilson

As the Freelance Writer at Net Worth Post, I steer producing riveting stories about the lives and triumphs of influencers. With an unwavering commitment to precision and a flair for weaving compelling tales, I guide our content creation, from the depths of research to the pinnacle of narrative excellence. My responsibilities encompass the full spectrum of editorial management, including the meticulous investigation, narrative development, and upholding the integrity and high standard of our output.

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