‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Explained How Close-Ups Were Filmed for the Series

by Joe Rutland

“The Waltons” made good use of close-ups when characters faced dramatic moments. One of the show’s actors talks about how it was done.

Judy Norton, in the latest installment of her series “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Waltons’,” discusses the process.

“We would start breaking it down into difference, what we called coverage,” Norton, who played Mary Ellen on the CBS family drama, said. “The close-ups, the various different angles that were going to be edited together for the final scene.

‘The Waltons’ Star Said They Put Everything for Camera Shot in Same Direction

“Now, if we were facing a particular direction, they would usually want to get everything that was going to be shot in that same direction,” Norton said. “Because that way, they didn’t have to move as many lights and things like that.

“Plus, behind the camera was everything that the camera couldn’t see,” she said of activity on “The Waltons” set. “So all the rest of the crew and all the equipment, sound people, and everything else was behind the camera out of frame.”

Norton played Mary Ellen on “The Waltons” throughout its entire nine-season run on CBS. In addition, she also appeared in six movies portraying the same role. For example, in this episode of Norton’s YouTube series, there’s an insert scene amplifying her discussion of the close-ups. It showed Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, and Ellen Corby, who played Grandma Walton, sitting at the dinner table.

As a result, the camera shot focuses on them and moves in to bring Geer and Corby into focus. This was just an example of “The Waltons” actor talking about the show’s camera work.

Classic TV Show Brings Nostalgic Energy to Its Viewers All the Time

One of the great things about “The Waltons” is it stirs up nostalgic feelings for its viewers. A member of “The Waltons” cast elaborates on that point.

Eric Scott, who played Ben Walton, talked about this in a 2011 interview with Herbie J Pilato.

“When I talk to people that grew up watching it within my generation,” Scott said, “I think they are connecting it back to the wonderful time they had growing up in the ’60s and the ’70s.

“So I think that nostalgia is probably part of the attraction now,” Scott said. Additionally, he said, “Remember, too, because it was based in the 1930s, it was nostalgic even then (when it debuted in the ’70s).”

Other cast members in “The Waltons” included Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Richard Thomas, Kami Cotler, Jon Walmsley, and David Harper. Waite and Learned played parents John and Olivia Walton, respectively. Obviously, Thomas, already a veteran of TV and stage work, portrayed John-Boy Walton and remained one of the show’s standout performers.