‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Identified with Mary Ellen Role Due to Being a ‘Tomboy’

by Quentin Blount

While all of the characters from The Waltons were cast well, there was one actress who especially identified with her part.

Judy Norton is without question best remembered for her role in the popular 1970’s TV series. While on The Waltons, Norton played Mary Ellen in the series and the other Waltons film productions.

The actress explained in a 2019 interview that she was excited to play the part of Mary Ellen. She said that prior to getting the part, all she knew about the character was that she was a “tomboy.”

“Oh, I knew that she was a tomboy, which I was,” Norton explained in the interview. “And I knew that she was kind of cocky and outspoken which I was not so much.  So it was really fun to play that character.”

The Waltons star says that she went into the audition barefoot and with pigtails.

“I remember I went in wearing cutoff shorts and I was barefoot and I think I had, y’ know, like pigtails or something,” she said. “I don’t remember specifically.”

And it was not just Norton who knew that she was perfect for the part of Mary Ellen Walton. The creator of the show, Earl Hamner, apparently knew she was the one the moment she stepped into the room to audition.

“But I remember at some point in later years, an interview was done with Earl Hamner who created the show,” Norton went on. “The characters were based on his real-life family. And at one point in the interview, he talked about that initial audition and said, in regards to me, that when I walked in the room, he just went, Oh, that’s her.’ So that was kind of nice to hear.”

‘The Waltons’ Wasn’t Supposed to be a Hit Show

Meanwhile, The Waltons star, Judy Norton, opened up about more than just relating to her character. She once said that the network thought the show would be a “sacrificial lamb.

In another 2019 interview, Norton said that the show was originally going to be just a TV Christmas movie. It took some time before the producers began talking about making it into an actual series. She said that CBS was looking to create a more family-oriented show.

“My understanding is at that point in time, the networks were starting to get a lot of pressure from the Moral Majority groups. They were saying that there was too much sex and violence and you know, non-family type programming. So CBS basically gave the green light to creating The Waltons. The show was supposed to be sort of a ‘sacrificial lamb’ in a sense.”

Norton continues saying that the network thought The Waltons series would flop.

“They were going to do this nice little family show that nobody was going to watch. And then they could say, ‘See, nobody wants that kind of programming,'” she laughs. “We’ll appease all the protestors and then they’ll have to shut up because no one’s watching the show.’ So yeah, that’s literally the story I heard.”

For more on the cast of The Waltons, follow along with us here at Outsider.