‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Revealed She Enjoyed This Stage Role More Than Portraying Mary Ellen

by Joe Rutland

It might be hard to imagine but Judy Norton of “The Waltons” really liked to play Annie Oakley on stage in “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Norton, whose career path after the CBS drama ended led to the stage, admitted in a 2009 interview that she loved playing that role.

“I was such a tomboy growing up that I really related to the character, and it has so many classic songs,” Norton said.

The 1946 Broadway play is filled with music from composer Irving Berlin. Ethel Merman played Annie Oakley in the original show. It gave her a theme song for her life in “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Other songs include “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” and “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).”

Norton Spends Time In Theater After ‘The Waltons’

Betty Hutton played the role in a 1950 movie based on the Broadway show.

Norton has spent a lot of time working in theaters on stage and as director and producer of plays.

People all around the world, though, still identify Norton with her role as Mary Ellen on “The Waltons.”

She remembers going to audition for a part in “The Homecoming,” a movie made as a possible pilot for the Earl Hamner-created show.

There was a group audition, Norton recalls, with everyone looking for a kid’s role there at the same time.

Audition For Mary Ellen Role Is Fresh In Her Mind

“They did something sort of unusual in that they had all the actors who were auditioning for the kids there at the same time,” Norton said in a 2019 interview with The College Crowd Digs Me. “They would put together a group of boys and girls and take us in, like, six at a time.”

Norton, who started auditioning for roles at 6 years old, knew the routine for what would become “The Waltons” role.

“On the final audition, I guess they just wanted to see us all together,” she said. “There were the six of us and they had us all in the room. They looked at us and said, ‘OK. You are the actors we’d like to have do this film.'”

That role of a lifetime proved to be helpful and hurtful at the same time. Norton couldn’t seem to get a lot of other TV roles after “The Waltons” and even tried to change up her image with a Playboy spread.

Nowadays, Norton is able to find life beyond Mary Ellen and the TV show productive on the stage.