‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Opens Up About What Happened If Cast Member Got Sick

by Taylor Cunningham

In the age of COVID, a case of the sniffles can temporarily shut down an entire Hollywood production. But back in the 1970s when Judy Norton was starring in The Waltons, things were much different.

In a recent episode of Norton’s Youtube series titled Ask Judy, one fan wondered if she or any of her co-stars were allowed to have sick days. And she said, “yes,” but only if they couldn’t function.

“I guess it really depended on just how sick you were,” Norton answered. “It is a little bit of nobody else can do your job. So if you could show up, you tended to show up and just deal with it.”

Of course, sometimes actors were much too ill to get out of bed. And it happened to the best of them. But when it did, the crew had to rearrange shooting schedules. Or worse, they’d have to write the absent actor out of a scene. However, that wasn’t always possible.

“If it was really your storyline, then it was hard to write you out of things,” she added. “So they would tend to shoot around you until you were back. But mostly, I remember people showing up and just sucking it up and doing the work. And hopefully, we didn’t make each other sick.

‘The Waltons’ Creator Had to Play Down Michael Learned’s Beauty

The Waltons showrunner Earl Hamner wanted all of his iconic characters to look fairly “normal,” but he had a hard time accomplishing that with Olivia Walton’s Michael Learned.

“She was and is so beautiful that we had to play down her beauty,” Hamner admitted during an Archive of American Television interview. “She’s such a beautiful woman that it’s almost unreal.”

As Hamner shared, he tasked the wardrobe and makeup departments with making the starlet less gorgeous. And they would do so by giving her slightly unflattering hairstyles and a drab wardrobe.

The creator thought it was nearly impossible to make Michael Learned look less stunning. But he thought his team managed to make her appear “a little” more average.

“If you see her at a cocktail party and she’s wearing black pajamas, that’s sensational,” he said. “But we brought her down, played down her beauty a bit by dressing her in dowdy old costumes that helped a little bit.”

Most celebrities would have taken issue with attempts to dim their beauty. But Learned didn’t mind. If anything, she wanted to play herself down even more. And not just in the looks department. The actress often complained that Olivia Walton was “too perfect” and set unrealistic standards for fans of the show.