‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Discussed the ‘Dark Side’ of Co-star Ralph Waite After His Death

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images

Actress Judy Norton still finds herself having a lot of respect for her “The Waltons” co-star Ralph Waite, even though he had a “dark side.”

Norton, in an interview after Waite’s death in 2014, recalled the actor from the long-running CBS family drama. It’s true that Waite dealt with issues, including alcoholism, during his life and time on “The Waltons.” He also had lingering memories of a daughter, Sharon Waite, dying of leukemia when she was 9 years old.

“He had a lot of things in his personal life that he struggled with, so he had a dark side,” Norton said to Everything Zoomer. “But when we would be filming around the kitchen table, he’d be full of energy and often tell us bawdy jokes.”

Norton Recalls ‘The Waltons’ Mother-Father Interaction

She remembers Waite having quite a laugh that stood out from other “The Waltons” cast members. Norton also recalls him with his blue eyes, which he would call “the baby blues.”

“Once, we were interviewed as a cast and asked how our favorite character was on the show,” Norton said. She spent her time talking about Ralph Waite.

Watching how Waite and actress Michael Learned, who played Olivia, interacted as a couple impressed Norton a lot.

“I always felt like his character was a tremendous role model,” she said. “He was honest and earnest in his portrayal of John Sr. Everyone wanted him to be their dad – someone who could be tough but also loving.”

Norton Gets Why People Wanted To Be Part Of The Show

Reflecting back on Waite, Norton understood why viewers wanted to be a part of that family. “A lot of that was because of Ralph and his performance,” she said. “He was part of my second family.”

Richard Thomas, Norton’s co-star who played John-Boy for eight seasons on “The Waltons,” also recalled his time with Waite.

He said Waite was demanding, sweet, and kind. Thomas looked to Waite as a mentor on the show’s set.

“Ralph was unfailingly honest and demanding as an actor,” Thomas told Smashing Interviews. “I mean ‘demanding’ in a good way, demanding that things be clear and well done. He was a sweet, affectionate, funny man, too. I loved Ralph a lot. We all did. He was a great progressive activist and a great contributor to his community. Ralph was a really special guy, and I had a lot of admiration for him as well as a lot of love.”