‘The Waltons’ Creator Earl Hamner Said Michael Learned Had One Major Problem With Olivia Walton

by Anna Dunn

The Waltons Creator Earl Hamner once said that Michael Learned had one major problem with Olivia Walton. The actress was known for her role as Olivia. For the most part, she really agreed with the character, but there was one thing she really didn’t love.

“Michael had some trouble with the role in the beginning because Michael was very aware of the fact that she would be held up as a model for women and she didn’t want [Olivia] to be so perfect that a woman couldn’t measure up in her own way,” Hamner explained in an archive of American of television interview years ago.

In a lot of old TV shows, the mothers would appear so perfect and make the job look almost easy. But it was anything but, and everyone has flaws. So Hamner tried listening to her when she came to him with ideas. She had a lot of ideas about how to make Olivia Walton a bit more rounded.

“So she would occasionally say to me was ‘was your Mother really like this?’ and I would say ‘yes Michael. She was that patient.’ and she would say ‘well she’s practically inhuman. Let’s humanize this character,”” Hamner recalled.

This gave Olivia Walton a more realistic edge, even though she still was pretty perfect. And Learned wasn’t afraid to put her foot down to make sure that Olivia didn’t just look like a background character.

“I remember once she came to me and said ‘Have I got to pour coffee again all day? The directors have me doing nothing but pouring coffee'” Hamner said, “So I said ‘no, I’ll take care of it.'”

In the next script, it was the Dad’s job to pour the coffee.

Michael Learned Defended Her Fellow ‘The Waltons’ Co-Stars Behind the Scenes

The Waltons followed a family, and because of that, there were a lot of child actors on set. So on top of making sure her character was fleshed out, Learned fought the very serious fight of making sure that the child stars were treated well by the network.

Even if it was something small like what people were given at a party, Learned wanted to make sure that the network was properly taking care of the kids. When production wouldn’t shell out for a cast party at all, Learned went to production.

“She went to the producers and said, ‘These kids have given you years of their lives and you can’t even get them something?’” Mary Ellen actress Judy Norton told Closer.

Earl Hamner put a ton of love into the show, but so did cast members like Michael Learned, who did her absolute best to make sure women around America wouldn’t see an impossible standard on their TV screens and instead saw someone a bit more human.