In Judy Norton’s recent YouTube video “Ask Judy,” her behind the scenes looks at “The Waltons,” the actress spoke about how she learned her lines. She also discussed how she prepared for “the character arc.”
She said, in case of schedule changes, she prepared for the entire episode and not just the projected scene. That meant, she knew where her character stood emotionally at any given moment in the episode.
She used the episode “The Obsession” as an example; her character Mary Ellen Walton started taking pills. “I knew what that was going to be about,” she started. “I did my homework, my research, everything in needed to understand the emotional arc of my character.”
Norton explained that she had to know what Mary Ellen was going through at any given time. This was because the show was shot out of order. She needed to know if she was “flying high” in a previous scene. Or if she was going through withdrawals, she needed to know how to approach the character.
“When I knew we were going to shoot a particular scene,” Norton said, “I’d take a look at where did that fall within what had happened to my character so far […] then it was really the mechanics of learning the lines.”
As for learning her lines, Norton went on to describe several ways she went about memorizing lines for various projects, not just “The Waltons.”
‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Discusses Practicing Lines In Traffic
“Fortunately, I was already pretty quick at being able to learn lines,” Judy Norton said in her video. That probably has to do with her techniques she had for memorization.
“Sometimes, because of the amount of traffic I’d sit in, I’d review lines while I was in stop and go traffic,” she continued.
Norton goes on to talk about her other technique, saying, “I got to a point where I would use a tape recorder to learn lines sometimes […] I would record the other peoples’ lines and then I would say my line silently so there was sufficient blank space in the recording […] so I would have that audio cue. And as I was driving around I would just run those, and review those, and listen to what was being said to me so that I knew what I was responding to.”
Judy Norton was obviously great at learning her lines; she appeared in 211 episodes of “The Waltons” as Mary Ellen. When the series started she was 13, and was given complicated character arcs, which she performed with great talent. Judy Norton continues to give behind-the-scenes looks at “The Waltons” on her YouTube channel, where she dives deep into episodes and answers fan questions.