For the cast members of The Waltons, their set was like a second home. They didn’t necessarily like new directors messing up their structure. In an Archive of American Television interview, Richard Thomas, who played the leading character John-Boy, admitted there were some set conflicts.
“There would be directors who would come in for the first time, and they would come for a dinner scene. They’d have it all figured out in their heads, but they’d have us sitting in different places [than usual].” He said. For the cast, it was important that they were positioned at certain places around the dinner table.
“And we always had to say ‘you can’t do that,'” the John-boy actor said, “‘because this is where we sit. This is our home. This is our dinner table. And this is where we sit.”
While it may sound harsh, Thomas explained that the set truly was the home for the cast. “And it wasn’t easy for people at first,” he continued, “Because it was our home. It was our dining room and our living room. And we lived there five days a week, nine months a year.”
“We would have to really talk to these directors.” The Waltons star said. He also tried to clarify that they never meant to be rude.
“It wasn’t because we were the regulars telling people ‘this is how its going to be.’ These were the patterns of [our] life and home.”
They wouldn’t just argue about how people sat at the table, but how characters would walk down to breakfast or sit around a radio. For the cast, they knew each other and their characters very well and felt very comfortable on set. They didn’t want that disrupted.
‘The Waltons’ Had a Small Set
It makes sense that the cast may have felt a bit protective over their set because it was actually quite small. According to actress Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen, “It’s much more condensed” than you’d think. They filmed most of the show on a small lot, with many the town shots taking place there as well. Hollywood studio magic transformed a small set into a tiny town in the Blue Ridge mountains.
The front of the house, along with the Godsey’s store, are both fake. There’s nothing actually behind them. The “schoolhouse” for the Was set up on a street in the back of the lot where dressing rooms and trailers were. The massive rocks and boulders from Waltons Mountain were also fake.
Not everything on set was fake, however. Two things that were actually real were the barn and the vegetable garden. The chicken coop (and the chickens) were also real. And the steakhouse? Real.
The point being, the cast of The Waltons got to know their set very well. For them, maintaining order amongst their own little family was just as important as maintaining that order with the family of characters they played for years.