‘The Waltons’ Star Ralph Waite Wanted His John Walton Character to Be a Tougher Father

by Joe Rutland

Ralph Waite of The Waltons fame really wanted his fatherly character of John Walton to be a tougher dad. Imagine if that had happened.

Waite played opposite Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, on the CBS family drama.

Yet a tougher father on The Waltons? Ooh, well let’s take a look courtesy of an article from MeTV.

Let’s do a little deep dive into this situation. See, when he joined the cast, Waite also started directing episodes in 1973. A total of 16 episodes had him behind the camera.

When 1975 rolled around, The Waltons star wanted a little more out of John Walton. Waite would go to show producers and want more realism out of his character.

‘The Waltons’ Star Wanted His Own Character To Be Like His Dad

Waite just saw John as too patient. This didn’t mesh with his own real-world times with his own dad.

He tells The Sunday News in 1975 that his father “often harassed” him, “the same as everyone else.”

Waite’s father was a dude who “tended to be a rough and impatient man.” This led to The Waltons star wanting John to have flashes of anger.

Producers said no over and over again. Waite says it happened because “You begin to feel like you’re violating audience expectations.”

“We mustn’t go too far,” Waite says. “Viewers expect a certain mold. So, there is a tendency to play it safe.”

In the end, Waite settled for the vision that producers had for his character, even when directing episodes.

Waite Says That John Walton Was ‘The Good Side of Me’

Ultimately, Waite thought that while John was a picture of a perfect father in his mind, he could see it another way. It did not mean that he had nothing in common with that fatherly character.

“He’s the good side of me,” Waite said.

What about feeling tension around his own father blowing his cool? Ralph Waite just didn’t have a lot of bad feelings.

Waite just felt real strongly that life experiences led him to The Waltons

After that, it all was a blessing in his eyes.

Toward the end of his life, Waite managed to get another high role on one of CBS’ most popular dramas. Have an idea about which one, Outsiders?

OK, we’ll tell you. Waite played the father of Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. That’s right. Waite played opposite Mark Harmon in a number of scenes. When Harmon played his Gibbs character one last time on the show (for now), he gave a shoutout to his father’s character.

“It’s been a good life,” Waite said.