‘The Waltons’: Mary Ellen Actress Judy Norton Opens Up About an ‘Out-of-Character’ Scene in ‘The Conflict’

by Keeli Parkey

In the latest installment of her video series “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Waltons’” actress Judy Norton continued her discussion of the show’s two-part episode titled “The Conflict.”

For this installment, she reached out to Ralph Senensky, to get him to share his memories about it. Senensky was the director of the episode. He responded in writing. Norton read his responses in a video she posted to YouTube on June 14.

One of the memories Senensky shared of this episode of “The Waltons” had to do with a scene in which Norton felt her character, Mary Ellen, was doing something she wouldn’t do.

“He said, ‘Judy, I wonder if you remember when we were filming the scene at Frazier Park where you, Mary Ellen, Erin (who was played by Mary Beth McDonough), and Elizabeth (the character played by Kami Cotler) were out in the woods picking berries a group of feisty pigs appeared,” Norton read. “‘The script called for the three girls to be frightened and climb up onto a very large tree while the pigs gathered at the base of the tree.'”

Of course, Judy Norton was familiar with the scene. In fact, she said when she watched it recently she felt Mary Ellen being scared by the pigs of “out of character.” According to what Senensky shared with Norton, the day the scene was filmed she went to him beforehand and told him Mary Ellen would not be frightened.

“I don’t remember saying that or doing that. But, I can see why I would have, because even when I watched it again, I went, ‘Well, that’s interesting, seems a little out of character for Mary Ellen.’ But, clearly, at the time, I also wondered about that,” Norton also said.

Despite Judy Norton’s Concerns This Scene of ‘The Waltons’ Was Filmed as Written

Unfortunately for Judy Norton, the scene with Mary Ellen and the pigs was shot as it appeared in the script. However, before filming began she had a chance to make her case to a producer of “The Waltons.”

According to Senensky, he was not willing to rewrite the scene on set. He also wrote to Norton that the producers of “The Waltons” did not approve of that. So, he reached out to producer Robert Jacks to talk to Norton.

“…’I don’t know what happened at their meeting. But, Judy returned to our location like a true professional and we filmed a delightful scene,'” Norton also read from Senensky’s response.

For her part, Norton also did not remember what she and Jacks discussed on that day.

“(Jacks) was a wonderful producer,” she said. “So, he probably appealed to me and I went, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. I understand we have to do it.’ Or, he might have just said, ‘Come on, Judy. You know we’re short on time. We gotta get this done and we can’t rewrite.'”

Norton said she “understood” why Senensky and Jacks were unwilling to change the scene.

“Either way, I clearly understood the position and I made my appeal. And it wasn’t going to happen, so then it was time to just do the job,” she explained.

You can watch Judy Norton talk about “The Waltons” below. Her comments about the “out-of-character” scene begin around the 6:50 mark of the video.