‘The Waltons’ Star Tom Bower Recalls His ‘Extensive’ Audition Process

by Allison Hambrick
(Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

The Waltons actor Tom Bower revealed a behind-the-scenes look into how he got cast on the long-running series.

“I did have quite an extensive audition process,” said Bower in an interview with The Waltons costar Judy Norton. “I probably had to come back three or four times. But yeah, they put me through the hurdles to get that job, and I felt so very lucky to have gotten it. It was a perfect time for me to be a part of the show.”

Though he had appeared on the show before, the actor joined the main cast in its fifth season. When asked about what it was like to step into the cast, Bower explained: “It was a little, a little intimidating because all of you had been together for a while, and you really had your drills down. I think the hardest things to learn was what to do and what not to do when you had a big family dinner… Would not get caught eating a lot of mashed potatoes. I’d be eating a bushel of potatoes before the episode was through.”

“So that was a great lesson, and there were a number of other things that were quite a teaching benefit,” Bower added. “Just being about Will [Greer], what he knew about horticulture and unionism in America, or what he knew about Woody Guthrie, because Will was a very good friend of Woody. He would teach you a lesson about everything in life if you stuck around and kept your ears open.”

As mentioned before, Bowers appeared on The Waltons prior to becoming a series regular. Notably, he appeared in the episode “The Wingwalker.” Bower played a barnstormer pilot named Rex Barker. The episode featured a common depression-era pastime. Barnstorming involved flying over areas and performing daring stunts as spectators watched from below. In the show, Barker had a stuntwoman who walked the wings of the plane when it was in the air. She shared an ill-fated romance with John-Boy, played by Richard Thomas.

Richard Thomas Talks The Waltons

Now, Thomas also reflected on the legacy of The Waltons. Like Bower, he considered his time on the show a learning experience.

“I started really young,” said Thomas. “One of the great things about growing up and consistently working as a child actor… if you have a nice career as a child actor, when you get these people playing your parents, you get all these fantastic people to learn from. So that was my academy, really, growing up, because I was never trained, but the academy I was at was the academy of Barbara Bel Geddes, and Geraldine Page, and Paul Newman, and Jessica Tandy, and Joanne Woodward.”

For his part, Thomas appreciated all that The Waltons allowed him to learn. Bowers echoed that sentiment, especially in regard to the series’s excellent cast.