‘The Waltons’: Why Mary McDonough Said Her Audition Was Like Winning the ‘Irish Sweepstakes’

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images)

Mary McDonough, who played Erin on “The Waltons,” felt like a real winner coming out of the audition phase for the CBS drama.

McDonough talked about the audition process in a 2014 interview on “Home & Family.”

“Well, the audition process was long because they brought in every kid in California,” McDonough said “I went on the audition and there are all these people I saw on TV all the time.”

She called it a “star-studded event” for her. Additionally, McDonough would experience her first audition for “The Waltons” role.

‘The Waltons’ Star Experienced Her First Audition In Career For Show Role

“This was my very first audition and then they pared it down,” she said. “More kids, more kids and we went in and read the walnut-cracking scene that is in ‘The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.'”

When did McDonough know that she was going to play Erin? It took her by surprise.

“And then, finally, they brought us all in, told us we were working with [actress] Patricia Neal,” she said. “And I walked out and turned to Eric [actor Eric Scott, who played Ben] and said, ‘Does that mean we got the job?'”

Yes, she did. McDonough also says “it was my Dad who said it was like buying your first ticket to the Irish Sweepstakes and winning.”

Leave it to Dad to put that first audition win into perspective. “The Waltons” appears on CBS for nine seasons and there were six movies made in connection with the show. McDonough was a part of all that in her role as Erin.

Michael Learned Wasn’t Putting Up With Anyone Calling Show ‘Soft’

Erin was one of the children on “The Waltons” who would look to matriarch Olivia Walton for guidance. Well, at least in the confines of a script.

Michael Learned, who played Olivia, would hear people call the drama show “soft.” She definitely didn’t agree with that assessment.

“People think it was soft and saccharine and it really wasn’t in the beginning,” Learned said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “I mean, Grandma [Ellen Corby] was not soft and saccharine. Grandpa [Will Geer[ had an eye for the ladies and the Baldwin sisters [Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson] drank too much.”

She also said Olivia was a little rigid on “The Waltons.” Learned pointed out that John Walton [Ralph Waite] drank a bit. Learned said under all of that stuff “was a sense of love and that things could be resolved.”

It is nice to think about life’s problems solved in an hour-long drama. Learned also said she longed to have that type of situation in her own life, too, away from the show.

Still, people are finding “The Waltons” thanks to classic TV reruns. New generations will want to experience life on Walton’s Mountain, too.