‘The Waltons’ Star Michael Learned Reflects on ‘Touching’ Moments Filming the Classic Series

by Caitlin Berard

The series finale of The Waltons aired over 40 years ago, but the remaining cast members still look back on their time with the classic TV show fondly. In an interview with Closer Weekly, Michael Learned and her fellow Waltons stars revealed that, although they haven’t portrayed a family in decades, they still share the familial bonds they built in the 70s today.

“I still think of them as my family,” said Michael Learned, the actress behind Walton family matriarch, Olivia Walton. “Whenever we are together, there’s a lot of joy, laughter, and warmth.”

Erin Walton actress Mary McDonough, who is now 61 but was just 10 years old when The Waltons premiered, shared that the cast was so close that she was surprised when she learned it wasn’t the norm. “We actually had lunch together almost every single day,” McDonough recalled.

“I remember doing another show,” she continued. “And when they called for lunch, all the cast members scattered. I thought, ‘That is so strange! I wonder why they don’t have lunch together?'”

‘The Waltons’ Stars Share Their Favorite Memories From the Set

Though every day on set felt like a day with friends, The Waltons stars Judy Norton and Michael Learned have particular memories of which they’re fondest.

For Judy Norton, the actress behind the Waltons’ eldest daughter Mary Ellen, one such memory is of John Ritter and Richard Thomas’ constant practical jokes. “They were always trying to get one-up on the other and crack each other up,” Norton said.

As for Michael Learned, the memories of her late on-screen husband Ralph Waite hold special meaning. According to Michael, the actor struggled to remember the real-life names of his on-screen children. It was so hard for him, in fact, that it became a running joke among the cast.

To practice, Ralph would recite each child’s name. “After dinner, he addressed each of the kids by name,” Michael Learned explained. “It was really touching.”

Richard Thomas Is Still Recognized as John-Boy Today

From the ages of 21 to 30, Richard Thomas played John-Boy, the Waltons’ eldest child and narrator and main character of the classic series. Thomas is now 71, but fans still recognize him as the intellectual young man.

According to Richard Thomas, he still hears “Goodnight, John-Boy” everywhere he goes and will probably die as John-Boy Walton rather than Richard Thomas, but that’s fine by him. “Many fans come up and say, ‘Hey, it’s you. I grew up with you,’ as if I were a childhood friend,” he explained.

Though he’ll never extricate himself from the John-Boy character, Richard Thomas feels it’s more a blessing than a curse, simply because The Waltons was so meaningful. “It was a show that was so warm and so full of humanity,” he said. “People supporting each other, going to bat for each other. There’s always a goodwill feeling, which makes me really happy.”