‘The Waltons’ Star Judy Norton Talks ‘Realism’ of ‘Homecoming’ Special

by Lauren Boisvert

Judy Norton has released a second part to her behind-the-scenes video of the original “The Waltons” movie, “Homecoming.” In this second video, she discusses her experiences filming the movie and what the process was like.

Norton also talks about the realism of the character interactions, specifically citing a scene between Mary Ellen and Olivia Walton. At this time, Michael Learned didn’t play Olivia; Patricia Neal played the part for “Homecoming.” In the scene, Mary Ellen asks Olivia if she thinks she’s pretty. “No,” Olivia answers. Then, after a pause in which Mary Ellen looks disappointed, says, “I think you’re beautiful.” Mary Ellen smiles, and thanks her mother.

Judy Norton highlighted the fact that Olivia never even looked at Mary Ellen when she said it. It was a matter-of-fact statement that Mary Ellen was beautiful.

“There wasn’t a lot of extra sentimentality in how the scenes were played,” Norton explained. “Which to me just brought such wonderful realism to it. So I thought the combination of the casting and the direction just all guided us, with Earl’s perfect words, down just the perfect path.”

There was also realism in the settings, as Norton explains next. She talks about a scene at a missionary shot in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“It was a freezing night,” Norton says, “freezing for us, a lot of children from Southern California who were not appropriately dressed to deal with that kind of cold […] So we were all quite cold. I would say our coats weren’t all that warm. We had mittens, we had hats, but we were out there for many, many hours that evening and it was cold […] But it sure made for realism when we were shooting.”

Judy Norton Explains How ‘The Homecoming’ Set the Stage for Mary Ellen and John-Boy’s Relationship

According to Judy Norton, “The Homecoming” was instrumental in setting up Mary Ellen and John-Boy’s dynamic on “The Waltons.”

She noted that the writing was very natural for her and Richard Thomas. They squabbled like teenage siblings, shared knowing looks, and gave each other a hard time. Mary Ellen would also go to John-Boy for advice; they portrayed that juxtaposition of siblings where they pick on each other constantly but love each other at the end of the day.

For example, there’s a scene from an episode of “The Waltons” where Olivia is hemming John-Boy’s pants; May Ellen sticks him in the butt with a pin. He kicks at her, and they chase each other around the family room; it’s a great portrayal of siblings just bugging the heck out of each other.

“The Homecoming” laid the groundwork for that relationship to work so well on “The Waltons.” Judy Norton summed up her thoughts about Mary Ellen and John-Boy, telling fans, “I thought it was a lovely relationship between the two of them.”