‘The Waltons’: How ‘Mary Ellen’ Actress Judy Norton Felt About Working With Infants on TV

by Katie Maloney

“The Waltons” star Judy Norton opened up about how she bonded with her onscreen son, John-Curtis.

Actress Judy Norton didn’t grow up with a big family in real life. But on the show, “The Waltons,” she was surrounded by kids. Naturally, she had to learn how to connect with children in order to make the scenes work.

Later in the series, Norton’s character Mary Ellen marries and has a child of her own named John-Curtis. During an episode of her video series, “Behind-the-Scenes with Judy Norton,” released earlier this year, Norton talked about how she bonded with the actors who played her onscreen son John-Curtis.

Because of child labor laws, a toddler/child can only work for a maximum of four hours. So, the show hired twins to play John-Curtis. One baby worked for the first four hours while the other baby worked the second four-hour shift.

“We actually used a number of different children over the first beginning of when John-Curtis was born,” said Norton. “Typically newborns are played by babies who are just three to five weeks old, so they aren’t days old. So that’s what we were working with.”

However, once John-Curtis was a toddler, “The Waltons” officially cast twin brothers Michael and Marshall Reed as John-Curtis.

“From the time he was a toddler, we had Michael and Marshall Reed who we used for the rest of the nine seasons,” said Norton.

Judy Norton Had Special Way of Bonding With Her Onscreen Son on ‘The Waltons’

Having never been a mother herself, Judy Norton wanted to do everything she could to make her relationship with John-Curtis look authentic. So, she had a strategy for bonding with the Reed brothers.

“To be able to work with them the all the time way I needed to, I spent a lot of time with them on set. Because, like a lot of children, they were most comfortable with who they were most familiar with,” said Norton. “If I was going to be working with them, I would often take them and often just kind of babysit. Rather than doing a take and then handing him back to his aunt and then having to take him away again, I would just hang with him. So, I got drooled on. And they would give him peppermint candies and that would end up on my white nurse suit.”

As a current mother of two, Norton said that her days on “The Waltons” was good preparation for motherhood.

“It was a great introduction to motherhood, for real,” said Norton with a laugh. “But I wanted them to be familiar enough with me that they would be comfortable working with me…So I spent a lot of time with the twins and did develop a fun relationship with them. They were remarkable to work with throughout the years so we were very lucky.”

Norton added that after the series ended she didn’t see the brothers again until “The Waltons” 40th reunion party.

“And Michael and Marshall came in and they are both handsome young men,” said Norton. “So it was very interesting to see them. Of course, they remembered nothing about the show. But it was great to see my grown boys.”