‘The Waltons’: Mary Ellen Actress Judy Norton Believes Grandpa Zeb Actor Will Geer Was ‘Larger Than Life’: Here’s Why

by Keeli Parkey

On the latest installment of her “Behind the Scenes of ‘The Waltons’” series, actress Judy Norton focused on the show’s characters that were fathers. Fittingly, she posted the video on June 21 – the day after Father’s Day 2021.

In addition to talking about Ralph Waite, who played John Walton Sr. in the famous family drama, Norton also talked about actor Will Geer. It was Geer who brought the character of Grandpa Zeb Walton to life on the small screen. Norton played Mary Ellen Walton – a daughter of John and granddaughter of Zeb – in the series.

“The patriarch of the Walton family was Zeb Walton, John’s father. So, he was not only a father to John, but also a grandfather to all of us,” Norton said. “And he was also larger than life and a grandfather that so many have told me they wished was theirs. Or, that they had a grandfather like him. I feel like they were very lucky to have a grandfather like Zeb Walton.”

Judy Norton Said Zeb On ‘The Waltons’ Was the Character ‘Most Like Will (Geer) In Real Life’

Getting to work with Will Geer on “The Waltons” was memorable for Judy Norton.

Will Geer was quite a character in his own right. And I loved everything that he brought to the character of Grandpa,” she said. “I’ve often heard it said that this character, of all the characters he played over the years, was the most like Will in real life.”

Norton also said she admired Will Geer’s performance as Grandpa because of his energy.

“In so many scenes, he was full of life and laughing and smiling and being playful and a little naughty at times, the way he teased Grandma. Or, the fun that he had drinking with the Baldwin ladies – always happy to go and share a cup of the recipe with them,” she said.

Norton also admired her on-screen grandfather on “The Waltons” for his work ethic and wisdom.

“But, he worked very hard in the mill. … And he was always a leader to (John and John-Boy) and had taught them both so much,” Norton said. “But, then he could also step right up and be that patriarch as in ‘The Dust Bowl Cousins’ (episode) when he counsels John-Boy about what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth walking away from. And then later on, when he takes things into his own hands, when John-Boy and Job do scuffle, and things are getting nasty and he takes the two of them in hand and sorts that out real fast.”

Will Geer didn’t just play a father on television. According to Judy Norton, he had three children in real life – Kate, Ellen, and Thad. Ellen appeared in two episodes of “The Waltons.” Thad served as a stand-in on the show. Geer also had a stepdaughter.

You can watch Judy Norton discuss “The Waltons” below. Her comments about actor Will Geer begin at the three-minute mark of the video.