‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Opens Up About Ellen Corby Being a Mentor On the Set

by Clayton Edwards

Ellen Corby played Esther, the loving grandmother of the Walton family. However, before she signed up for The Waltons, Corby held several film and television roles. She didn’t get lead roles, but she was in movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, It’s a Wonderful Life and many more. So, by the time she joined the cast of the hit show, she was an experienced actress. At the same time, she was in her sixties when she joined the cast. As a result, she had a lifetime of advice to share with the young actors on the series. Judy Norton, for example, remembers her as a mentor.

Judy Norton played the eldest Walton daughter, Mary Ellen. When she first took the role in The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, she was only thirteen years old. So, she had plenty to learn about life as well as the entertainment industry. Luckily, she had plenty of time to absorb Ellen Corby’s wisdom. Norton was in the series for its entire run and came back for the subsequent made-for-tv movies. Corby, on the other hand, left the show after five years. A massive stroke caused her to walk away from The Waltons.

Today, Judy Norton hosts a web series in which she takes her fans behind the scenes of The Waltons Sometimes, she breaks down full episodes or broad topics pertaining to the classic series. Other times, she takes questions from her fans about whatever is on their mind. In a recent installment, she talked about how important Ellen Corby was to her and the other young actors on The Waltons.

Judy Norton on Ellen Corby’s Mentorship

One fan wrote to Judy Norton to get clarification on a rumor he heard about Ellen Corby. “I’ve heard that Ellen Corby adopted Jon Walmsley as her grandson in real-life… do you have any insight into this?”

Judy Norton was quick to say that, no, Ellen Corby didn’t officially adopt anyone from the series. However, she did mentor Walmsley and other young members of the cast. “I think it was probably just a saying like, ‘I’m adopting you,’ the way that we might say, I’m taking someone under my wing.”

That’s what Ellen Corby did on the set, according to Norton. “She did that with several of us,” she recalled. Corby would mentor and generally looked out for the Walton kids. Judy Norton said, “She did that with me, too.  She gave me a lot of advice. A lot of wonderful advice. So, I think it was probably similar with Jon and maybe they were fairly close during the show and afterward.” Instead of trying to find a way to adopt Jon Walmsley Corby most likely considered him an honorary grandson.