‘The Waltons’ Cast Once Explained What Filming Was Like Behind-the-Scenes

by Keeli Parkey

Members of “The Waltons” cast gathered for a brief reunion of sorts earlier this year. The group interview took place in January on the streaming show “Stars in the House.”

The Waltons” originally aired from 1972 until 1981. Cast members who joined the conversation were Michael Learned, Richard Thomas, Kami Cotler, Judy Norton, and Eric “Ben” Scott. “Stars in the House” is hosted by James Wesley and Seth Rudetsky. One of the topics the group covered was what filming the beloved television show was like behind the scenes. “

“What was a typical day like? I feel like half the cast was in school. What was a typical day like?” Wesley asked the cast. He then turned to Learned, who played matriarch Olivia Walton, for a response.

“Boring. Really, boring. …” Learned said of shooting “The Waltons.” “I had three kids at home. At one point I had five. So, they would sometimes call me in at 6 in the morning and then not work me until noon. And, I would go mad. I would just go mad because I had kids at home, you know?

Learned said things on the set were different for the adult actors as opposed to the younger members of the cast.

“Richard (Thomas) was young and eager and everything,” Learned added. “And, I’d be sort of be strumming my fingers. Now you understand, don’t you Richard? He said years later, ‘Oh, I get it. You had kids at home.'”

Thomas, who played John-Boy, agreed. “That’s true. We were incorrigible – all of us young ones. We really were,” he said with a life.

Wesley later asked about other behind-the-scenes details on “The Waltons.”

“Would you have a table read at the beginning of the week? … And, how did it work with the kids’ schedules?” Wesley inquired.

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen, said the younger members of the cast “were never invited to table reads.”

‘The Waltons’ Actress Said Young Actors Attended Class Each, Had Limited Time on Set

Norton also talked about what it was like acting on “The Waltons” as a youngster while still being a student.

“… during the school year we were required to do three hours of schooling every day. So between filming, the kids who were still in school would go back into the school room that we had at the set and do three hours of schooling,” Norton added. “It was all broken up in between shots, in between takes and stuff – every time we had a break. …”

Norton also said she and the other young cast members were only allowed to be on the set for a limited number of hours.

“Because we were all under 18 they limited the amount of time we could be on set. We could only be there for eight hours, plus an hour for lunch, so a total of nine hours,” Norton said. “Depending on what time they called us in the morning, nine hours later they had to let us go. Which meant the poor adults had to bookend because they didn’t do just an eight-hour shoot day. So, they had to hang out and do all the stuff after we were gone.”

Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth, said she believed that the child actors on “The Waltons” had an “easier” time working on the show.

“I almost think it was easier for kids, from my perspective. It wasn’t as boring because you had school and you could play … There were toys everywhere, from my point of view,” Cotler said. “And, there was a lot less stress. I can’t imagine doing it as a mom.”

Actress Said Show’s Cast Was ‘Family’

Here’s where Learned took the opportunity to talk more about being on “The Waltons.”

“I loved it when we were all together shooting. The hard time for me was sitting in the trailer when I knew I was supposed to drive my kids to the dentist or whatever. That was the tough time for me,” Learned said. “But, when we were actually together and working it was always fun and full of love and laughter and good times, really. And, we went through some tough times together as a group. … We were a family. …”

You can watch “The Waltons” cast talk about the show during the January 2021 interview below.