‘The Waltons’: Mary Ellen Actress Judy Norton Explained How Cast Would Get ‘Punchy’ on Set

by Joe Rutland

People say laughter is good for the soul. If that’s so, then know that “The Waltons” was one set where a lot of laughter proved helpful.

Judy Norton would know all too well about getting “punchy” while working. Norton, who played Mary Ellen on CBS’s hit family drama, remembers how the giggles would turn into outright laughter.

“I think most of it was really cast-related, working with a group of people that I love,” she said in an interview with Moviehole.net.

Norton recalls times where they would sit around and do table scenes. If you’ve seen “The Waltons” before, then you will know that a lot of family scenes take place during mealtimes.

Norton Recalls ‘The Waltons’ Set Getting Hot

“We would be in there all day and the set would get so hot with 30 people in there with the cast and crew and we’d get punchy,” Norton said. “We would get silly and Ralph Waite (who played John Walton Sr.) would crack off-color jokes and then Michael (Learned, who played Olivia Walton) would start laughing and couldn’t stop.”

Norton remembers costar Mary McDonough, who played Erin Walton, trying to hold Learned’s hand and get her back on course.

“When you have that comfort level of working with people, those things were very special,” Norton said. “We worked with John Ritter and he and Richard (Thomas, who played John-Boy Walton) would try to one-up each other with jokes.”

Ritter played Rev. Matthew Fordwick on the show, his first major break in Hollywood. Ritter, who died in 2003, went on from “The Waltons” to star in ABC’s “Three’s Company.” Waite played the patriarch of the Walton family throughout its nine-season run. He appeared in other TV shows before his death in 2014.

Kami Cotler Reflects On Her Time On CBS Show

Another one of Norton’s costars also holds fond memories of working on “The Waltons.” Actress Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, loved doing scenes with Waite.

In a 2017 interview with VisionTV.ca, Cotler talked about working with Waite. What came to her mind was his love of dancing, along with her memorable moments with him on camera.

“Funnily enough, some of the more impactful memories of Ralph were on screen,” Cotler said. “There was an episode where Elizabeth is going to a dance and when she comes downstairs, daddy dances a waltz with her.”

Cotler said Waite was a really amazing dancer.

“I had no idea how magical waltzing could be until that moment,” she said. “Watching it brought Michael (Learned) to tears because her own father used to dance with her like that.”