‘The Waltons’ Actress Judy Norton Reveals Fellow Co-Star Richard Thomas’ Unique ‘Directing Stamp’ in ‘The Song Episode’

by Katie Maloney

No one knows The Waltons better than their own family member.

This is why Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy on The Waltons, was the perfect candidate to direct a few episodes. To be exact, from 1975-77 Thomas directed five episodes of the show. The episodes were “The Song,” “The Fox,” “The Collision,” “The Great Motorcycle Race,” and “John’s Crossroad.” During a behind-the-scenes video, actress Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on the show talked about Thomas’s episode, “The Song.” She said that there were several Richard Thomas “stamps” that she noticed while watching the episode.

“I watched it and was looking for the various different directing choices that Richard made. And there were some things that just, to me, had his stamp on them,” said Norton.

Norton said that the authenticity that Thomas evoked in each of his scenes was impressive. She said that fans can especially see his trademark authenticity in the way he directed scenes between the siblings.

“There were several times where he created an interaction between the brothers and sisters. Between him and Ben earlier and then later with him and Jason. And the kids teasing each other,” said Norton. “And that, to me very much spoke of Richard’s sensibilities regarding having action and interaction and a sense of ad-lib that things didn’t look staged or scripted. Despite the fact that pretty much everything would have been scripted. But it seems to me that here we had a little bit of freedom with some ad-libs here in the scenes.”

Overall, Norton was the perfect onscreen sister as she promoted Thomas’s directing skills. She said that she loved watching the way he brought The Waltons to life.

“So, I loved watching Richard bring the dynamics of the family to life from his viewpoint as a director,” said Norton. “And also from his viewpoint as a member of the family of The Waltons.”

Judy Norton talked about Richard Thomas directing episodes of The Waltons

What Did Richard Thomas Think About Directing Episodes Of The Waltons?

Many people may think that acting and directing can’t be that different. It’s all show business, after all. But that’s not actually the case. Actors and directors have to take on completely different mindsets in order to do their job. And switching between the roles during a single episode of a show could be stressful. In fact, Richard Thomas said the same thing about making the transition from actor to director. During an interview, Thomas talked about directing episodes of The Waltons.

“I directed some, which was scary for me because I had never done that before,” said Thomas. But it was also exciting and satisfying.”

However, Thomas said that, if directed today, The Waltons would be a completely different show than it was when it first aired.

“If you did The Waltons today or a show like that it would probably be very, very different for many reasons. You wouldn’t just do that again,” said Thomas. “Everything works in its own time and then it’s relevant later on, but first of all it has to work in its own time and ‘The Waltons’ did for many reasons but there’s still room for a family show.”