The Waltons was an iconic show back in the day. So much so that folks from all over wanted to revisit the franchise, so it was rebooted on the CW. It succeeded for a multitude of reasons, but The Waltons creator Earl Hamner revealed the secret to the success of the show. All from his perspective, of course.
“I listened to the actors,” Hamner said. That was his reasoning. It was that simple for Hammer that separated the show from others. It was not about his vision for the program. So it was about working with the actors and ‘adapting’ to them as he pointed out. This seems so simple, but it’s often overlooked in the creative process. It can be easy to develop tunnel vision or to expect the actors to adapt to your needs. Instead, Hamner wanted to listen to his actors and work with them rather than it be a one-way street.
Richard Thomas on Earl Hamner
Richard Thomas got his start under Hamner. He told KFile TV, “He was just wonderful. He was incredibly kind, really funny, super intelligent… I mean, he had written these wonderful novels about growing up in this country in a certain time and place – Spencer’s Mountain and then The Homecoming – just beautifully. The Homecoming is an exquisite novel.”
Clearly, Thomas loved working for Hamner. It was a beautiful time and the chemistry was there.
He continued on Earl Hamner, “There was no idea of a series. It was a one off. It was a Christmas special, and after it did so well, they decided to make it a series. But it wasn’t a pilot, no one was thinking ahead of that one thing. Bit the writing was so beautiful. It had the quality of great American… I use the word regional, not as to diminish it… some of our greatest writing in this country comes from a specific sense of a region, in a time, and a place, and I thought he brought that into the scripts.”
So, it all worked out accidentally. It was this small thing to organically spawned into a much bigger thing for Hamner and Thomas.
He concluded on Earl Hamner, “And he was wonderful on the set. We did our cast readings every week before we’d shoot the show, and he listened very carefully, very attentively to our concerns, or our notes, or suggestions, or ideas, and incorporated the most of the time. He was a wonderful collaborator, and it’s just a real, true Virginian gentleman. I mean, really. Just a wonderful person. And of course, my gratitude to him is kind of inexpressible.”
Hamner could not have been more liked by Richard Thomas. He meant a lot to the latter and his impact is still felt today.