‘The Waltons’: Michael Learned is Not Much Older Than On-Screen Son Richard Thomas

by Joe Rutland

Outsiders know Michael Learned played the mother on “The Waltons” while Richard Thomas was her son. Did you know they were close in age?

Let’s get down to the facts according to an article from MeTV.

Learned, who played Olivia Walton, is actually just 12 years older than Thomas, who played John-Boy Walton.

In another age coincidence, Learned was 11 years younger than Ralph Waite, who played her husband, John Walton.

“The Waltons” made its mark as a drama that followed this family through dealing with the Great Depression and World War II.

Besides those three stars, other actors in the show included Jon Walmsley, Judy Norton, Mary Elizabeth McDonough, David W. Harper, Kami Cotler, and Eric Scott.

As for the grandparents on “The Waltons,” Will Geer played Zebulon Walton and Ellen Corby played Esther Walton.

The show, created by Earl Hamner, was a part of CBS’s primetime lineup from 1972-81. Hamner provided the voiceover narration to every episode.

‘The Waltons’ Matriarch Had Some Cogent Words For Those Who Viewed Drama as ‘Soft’

Critics were numerous during the drama’s run on network television.

Some even thought that “The Waltons” were a bit soft.

Well, Michael Learned wasn’t going to put up with that nonsense.

“People think it was soft and saccharine and it really wasn’t in the beginning,” she said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “I mean, Grandma was not soft and saccharine. Grandpa had an eye for the ladies and the Baldwin sisters (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson) drank too much.”

Those Baldwin sisters were known to use a secret potion when it came to their, um, liquor. Of course, it also could be called moonshine in those days.

But Learned had a few more points to make about that famous show.

It always aimed to provide a finishing point in each episode.

She said that she would be in a scene “sitting on the porch shelling peas or something every day getting ready for a scene, wishing my life was like this.”

Show’s Viewers, Actress Who Played Elizabeth Walton Find Their Own Types of Comfort

Longtime viewers have walked up to Learned and said that “The Waltons” gave them a sense of comfort in their lives.

Someone else also saw Learned as providing her own style of comfort. That would be Cotler, who played youngest child Elizabeth.

Cotler talked about it in 2017 with VisionTV.

“Oh gosh,” Cotler said. “Michael is one of the most sensitive and caring people I know. She was always warm to all of the kids. My own Mom is amazing, but she’s very sensible and grounded. I could go to Michael with more dramatic feelings and she’d be a great listener and support.”