‘The Waltons’: Michael Learned Said She Never Regretted Leaving the Show

by Joe Rutland

Michael Learned played Olivia Walton on CBS’s “The Waltons” until leaving after seven seasons. People may wonder if she regrets her choice.

“No, I didn’t regret it,” Learned said in a 2015 interview for Cinephiled. “After the kids were more grown, Earl (show creator Hamner) and the writers were trying but there just wasn’t much they could find for Olivia to do.

“I think it’s amazing that they came up with some of the storylines they did for her,” Learned said. “Earl was so sweet and I gave him some ideas that made it into the show. I so appreciated that but by that time, I just felt like there wasn’t a lot for me to do.”

For her work on “The Waltons,” Learned won three Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.” She captured a fourth Emmy for her work on “Nurse” in 1982.

Learned ended up not only finding career success on “The Waltons,” but she also found stability in her life.

Ralph Waite Of ‘The Waltons’ Helps Learned Get Sober

That role changed the life of Michael Learned in many, many ways.

In a July 2019 interview with FoxNews.com, she recalled how much she had been abusing alcohol.

“I was going through a divorce. … drinking too much, and I came down to L.A.,” Learned said. “I was full of fear because I’d been married since I was 17. Suddenly, I’m alone with three teenagers to raise. I don’t know where I got the courage to drive down to L.A. I thought, ‘I’m just going to look at the freeway and learn the freeways in case an audition comes up.’”

Learned ended up staying at a small motel for $12 a night. She’d found out about the Olivia Walton part on “The Waltons” but didn’t know if it was still available. She got a call from her agent, who told her the part was still open and told her to go. She did and the rest is history.

But what about getting sober? That’s where Ralph Waite, who played John Walton Sr., comes into the picture.

“Well, Ralph got me sober,” she said. Waite was going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the time and suggested Learned go with him. It surprised her, but she went to the meeting.

Learned Was Frequently ‘Mooned’ By Two Costars on Set

Michael Learned also found out that having a sense of humor helped in life. Two of her “The Waltons” costars made sure to keep her laughing.

According to MeTV, Waite and Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, enjoyed mooning Learned whenever they had the chance. Since they seemed to do it so often, it appears they had a good time trying to get a laugh or two out of her.

During an interview with Archive of American Television, Learned recalls some fond memories she has from her time on “The Waltons” set.

“I saw more of their rear-ends than I ever wanted to see,” Learned said about Waite and Geer, laughing.