‘The Waltons’: How the Series Used a Unique Trick to Turn the Light Switches On and Off

by Katie Maloney

As most television fans know, actors aren’t always filming on the locations portrayed on the show. More times than not, the actors are actually playing out their roles on television show sets. These sets may look exactly like a bank or a grocery store or a home. But they probably don’t have four walls, electricity, and everything else involved in regular buildings. This was certainly the case for “The Waltons.” Although many of the buildings seen on the show were actual buildings, most of them were housed on the production studio’s backlot. And most of them didn’t have fully completed interiors. One of the things many of the sets did not have was electricity. So, the actors and crew had to improvise when the script called for an actor to turn a light switch on or off.

Actor Judy Norton talked about the unique trick the crew used for light switches during an episode of her YouTube series, “Behind-the-Scenes with Judy Norton.”

“That was likely an actually wired light that had been rigged by the electrician. So that the light could be turned on and off there,” said Norton.

The Special Trick ‘The Waltons’ Crew Used to Turn Lights On and Off on the Show

Occasionally, “The Waltons” actors were lucky enough to have pre-wired lights they could use on the set. But when there wasn’t electricity on the set, they had to use a special trick.

“Quite frequently when we had light changes in a scene, they were being cued by an electrician. There was somebody actually turning the light on and off,” said Norton.

She then explained exactly how the trick played out during a scene.

“In which case, as an actor, when you went over to a light switch, the lights rarely worked. You would have to hold your hand over that light switch long enough that the lights actually went on,” said Norton.

Norton said that there was an art to the timing involved in holding her hand on the switch. She couldn’t do it too fast or else the switch would not look realistic.

“Because if you went fast then there may have been a delay in whoever was actually manually making that change to be able to do that. So we sort of had to cheat that a bit. Say, “Okay, well, I’m just going to pretend. And hold my hand here until the lights go off,'” said Norton. “

Luckily, the trick worked!

“And in that case, you couldn’t tell that somebody else had actually thrown a switch from somewhere else on that set,” said Norton.

Judy Norton talks about “The Waltons” episode titled “The Car.”