John is shown to be extremely sophisticated (despite his age). He often speaks in a sophisticated way, which his younger brother Michael usually mimics and repeats (albeit in a more simplistic way (i.e. John: "Oh, I should like very much to cross swords with some real buccaneers". Michael: "Yeah, and fight pirates, too!"). He also shows interest in piracy, which may explain why he plays the part Captain Hook in his nursery games with his younger sibling. John is also shown that he is brave and clever; when he and Michael were playing with the Lost Boys, he was the leader. John is very mature, but loves his time being very adventurous and playful.
John loves hearing Wendy's stories of Peter Pan and plays the character of Captain Hook while his younger brother Michael plays Peter Pan during their nursery games. He is very brave and very smart.
One night, while their parents go away to a party, Peter visits the Darling kids and teaches them how to fly and takes them to Neverland with them. When they arrive in Neverland, Captain Hook and his pirates shoot at them with their cannon, but Peter orders Tinker Bell to take the children to the island while he takes on Hook. Tinker Bell jealously tries to make Peter's friends, the Lost Boys, take out Wendy, but after Peter tells the Lost Boys that Wendy will be their new mother, they feel bad.
John is ordered by Peter to take the Lost Boys and Michael on a hunt for Indians, but the boys are captured by the Indians themselves and are mistaken for the kidnapping of The Indian Chief's daughter Tiger Lily, and the Chief orders the boys to be burnt at stake if Tiger Lily doesn't return by sunset. Luckily, Peter saves Tiger Lily from Captain Hook who is the real kidnapper and returns her to the Indian camp, and John and the boys are set free while Peter is made a Flying Eagle by the Chief. During the song, John tries the Chief's pipe, which sickens him and makes his face turn dark green. Also during the song, John dances along with the tribes, wanting to live like savages.
After the party, Wendy tells her brothers that they're going home tomorrow, but John and Michael refuse until Wendy reminds them about their mother, and the boys wish to return home, along with the Lost Boys who wish for a mother, too. John leads the boys out, but they (along with Wendy) are captured by Captain Hook and his pirates who are waiting outside having revealed their hideout by Tinker Bell who was banished earlier for nearly killing Wendy and been captured by Mr. Smee. On the ship, the boys are offered to become pirates to which the boys agree, but Wendy stops them, saying that Peter Pan will save them. However, Captain Hook admits to leaving a present for Peter from Wendy that had a bomb in it that will blow shortly and take Peter with it. But unknown to Wendy, the boys, and Captain Hook, Tinker Bell manages to escape from her prison and warns Peter of the bomb, and Wendy and the boys being captured. Thinking the bomb has killed Peter Pan, Hook has made Wendy walk the plank to drown in the sea, but luckily Peter arrives and saves her from her watery grave and frees the boys, and they fight off Hook and his pirates and the pirates go off their rowboat chasing the crocodile who chases Captain Hook.
In the end, Peter takes Wendy, John, and Michael home to London. After that, John is seen sleeping in his bed and tucked away by Nana the nursemaid dog and John's mother Mary - the whole experience is speculated by some viewers to be a dream, validated by the fact that the word Neverland today appears in English vernacular as "an ideal or imaginary place; a dream world".
John didn't appear in the sequel Return to Never Land and wasn't mentioned by any of the characters, including Wendy. However, he made a couple of shadowy cameos on some starry night clouds that light up by Tinker Bell, to begin with (flying with Wendy and Michael and leading the Lost Boys to the Indian campus).
John Darling and the rest of the Darling family appear in the Season 2 episode "Second Star to the Right". He is portrayed by child actor William Ainscough. After a boy named Baelfire was welcomed into their family, he and John overhear Baelfire one night warning Wendy to stay away from a shadow that looms outside the window. Wendy ignores his advice and travels to Never Land with the Shadow. When she returns, she reveals the Shadow wants to take one of her brothers away to Never Land forever. During the next night, Baelfire helps to hide everyone when the Shadow comes, but Michael is nearly caught by the creature. To avoid the splitting up of a family, Baelfire asks to be taken to Never Land instead.
In "Dark Hollow", John and Michael became employed by Pan after the latter kidnapped Wendy sometime after the events of "Second Star to the Right". Now, adults, they arrive in Storybrooke to destroy Pandora's Box, the only thing capable of defeating Pan. While they succeed in capturing the item, they are thwarted by Belle and Ariel in the mines. They reveal Pan is holding Wendy captive in Never Land, so Belle promises she will do what is necessary to save Wendy if they do not destroy the box.
At one point in the 1980's, John was played by an actual young boy in the parks, but child labor laws of the 1990's forced this to end. If asked where he is, his sister says that he and Michael are still in the Nursery.