‘The Waltons’: How Judy Norton Handled Filming Scenes Out of Order

by John Jamison

Seamless as the narratives of TV shows look as we watch them seasons at a time, the process of filming them is often way more disjointed than many may think. Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton on the classic TV show “The Waltons,” knows a thing or two about filming scenes out of order. And she learned how to approach them so that she could give the best performance possible.

As crazy as it sounds, a show might film the last few scenes of the season before they touch anything in the first episode. There are tons of variables that factor into the equation. The schedule can depend on anything from weather to the availability of specific cast members.

But one thing that remains consistent is that the next scene to be filmed probably doesn’t come next in the actual story. As a result, it can be challenging for actors to prepare themselves emotionally. Out of context, it’s not always easy to match the feelings of a powerful moment. This is especially true if none of the preceding material has been filmed yet.

‘The Waltons’ Star Kept the Show’s Whole Story in Mind

In a video she uploaded to her YouTube channel back in 2020, Judy Norton talked about how she approached an out-of-order scene. She was responding to a viewer’s question that asked if she could picture the entire storyline.

“As I prepared for the scene I would take into account what had already happened to my character. What would impact that moment in time in the story for the scene that I was filming,” she said. “So, yes. I would keep the entire story in my mind and try to make sure that my performance reflected what had already occurred to my character and the family at the time we were shooting.”

She also mentioned how important it was for her to read the entire script as part of her preparation. While the scenes may be shot out of order, the script should read in order like a book. And even just having a mental image of everything surrounding a given scene can be invaluable to those performing it.

It’s easy to see how difficult it could be to keep track of what exactly your character has been through. Going from a scene filming the consequences of something back to one where those actions haven’t yet been taken seems like a tough transition. And when you start accounting for how many different people have to be on the same page, it becomes even more complicated.