‘The Waltons’: How John Ritter Was Very Different From His Character on Set

by Joe Rutland

John Ritter was an incredibly funny guy who got his first real TV exposure from playing a minister on The Waltons. His funny side would come out more in the classic TV ABC sitcom Three’s Company. Yet it was as Reverend Fordwick that Ritter first caught people’s attention on the TV screen. And, as you might guess, Ritter really did not have much in common with his character on The Waltons other than it was work.

Yes, he was quite different on the show’s set than what his character played out to be. One person who would have to deal with the difference between character and actor was Judy Norton. As you may remember, she played Mary Ellen Walton on the CBS drama created by Earl Hamner Jr. In recent years, though, Norton has been going on YouTube to talk about different episodes.

Judy Norton Called John Ritter ‘Believable’ In ‘The Waltons’ Character

The first episode that we see Ritter playing the good reverend in is titled The Sinner. At one point, we hear Fordwick telling Mary Ellen to stop cursing. He’s trying to clean up the sin and errors happening in and around Walton’s Mountain. But he kind of loosens up a little bit when the Baldwin sisters’ recipe finds its way to the reverend’s lips.

Norton made this observation about Ritter playing Fordwick. “He is incredibly believable as this intense and earnest young reverend in training and when he goes off on us, we’re supposed to be intimidated by it,” she said, according to MeTV. When it comes to working opposite Ritter and his character, she definitely has her own thoughts. “To me, that was personally definitely acting because knowing John, I was not intimidated or scared by him as a person,” she said.

In fact, Norton would also recall that Ritter and fellow costar Richard Thomas would crack either other up. They’d be having a heck of a good time just pulling pranks and stuff. That does not sound like a reverend who is just out of seminary does it? Hardly. So, Ritter had fun playing his part here. In just a few years, we’d be greeted in our homes by seeing him as Jack Tripper. He’s falling all over himself and furniture a lot of the time on Three’s Company.

Sadly, Ritter died in 2003. We all have been robbed of his humor, laughter, and creative abilities for many years. Still, we can look back on his work in Three’s Company and find something to enjoy about it. No one could play Jack like Ritter and his work remains quite beloved by millions of people. Go check out The Sinner from The Waltons and see him play Reverend Fordwick.