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‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Reveals What Mary Ellen Taught Her

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Brian Putnam/FilmMagic)

She starred as Mary Ellen in the hit sitcom The Waltons from 1972 to 1981, and now Judy Norton is revealing details of what she learned from her iconic character.

During her latest “Ask Judy” video, Judy Norton praised her character for having admirable qualities. “She always defended her family. She was perfectly willing to get into a fight to defend Jim Bob from being picked on. Things like that. She never backed down from anything. All of those things that aspects of her being rebellious. I really admired that she didn’t play it safe.”

The Waltons star then stated that she doesn’t know if she would have had the perseverance to do what Mary Ellen did on the iconic sitcom. “In wanting to get into becoming a doctor. To just keep going back and say, ‘I’m gonna keep coming back. I’m gonna keep doing this.’ You know, that took a lot. So I think that was very admirable as well. So those are things I kind of learned.”

The Waltons first premiered in September of 1972. The series had nine seasons and 221 episodes. According to its IMDb description, The Waltons followed the life and trials of a 1930s and 1940s Virginia mountain family through the Great Depression and World War II.

Starring along with Norton on The Waltons was Richard Thomas, Ellen Corby, Will Greer, Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, and Jon Walmsley. 

Judy Norton Reflected on How ‘The Waltons’ Gained Popularity and Loyal Fans

During a 2018 interview with Fox News, Judy Norton opened up about how The Waltons struggled to gain popularity at the beginning. “It took the whole season to find our audience and get them onboard. People then loved it and stayed loyal for nine years. In today’s world, a show might get maybe 3-6 episodes to test it.”

The Waltons cast member then admitted that it’s even harder in TV shows than it was during the show’s heyday because of more competition. “A show could be gone before you even know it existed. So we were in a very fortunate time in television, where we were given that opportunity to stick around long enough for an audience to find us.” 

Norton then stated that she related to aspects of her The Waltons character. “I was very much into sports, and I loved the rebellious, non-conforming characters of Mary Ellen. And we were telling these universal stories that although it was set in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the stores were about bringing out the best in people.”

Norton goes on to add that she was really proud to be presenting something for families. “It’s really an honor when you’re creating a fictional show that changes people’s lives.”