‘The Waltons’: One Actress Described the Time Michael Learned Screamed While Tossing a Salad on Set

by Matthew Wilson

When the cameras weren’t rolling, the cast of “The Waltons” often got up to all sorts of antics on set, including one involving a salad.

“The Waltons” star Mary McDonough, who played Erin Walton on the show, revealed her co-star Michael Learned tried to scare her castmates. Learned played the family’s matriarch Olivia Walton on the show. But in real life, she was apparently a bit of a prankster.

While fixing a salad, Learned randomly threw the vegetables up into the air and started screaming. McDonough reflected on some of the funny times on set.

“The funniest one I think is Richard [Thomas] with the sponge and he and John Ritter trying to crack each other up,” McDonough told Smashing Interviews. “Also our gag reels with Richard and Will [Greer] mooning. Two funny ones were Ralph dumping all of these biscuits into Richard’s plate and Michael making this salad and just suddenly tossing it into the air screaming.”

Of course, Learned was subject to her own pranks as well. Her co-stars Ralph Waite and Will Greer enjoyed mooning her on-set. The humorous prank became a recurring joke on-set. Learned herself found her co-stars’ antics to be hilarious.

Pranks on ‘The Waltons’ Set

“The Waltons” star Richard Thomas also reflected on the on-set comedy. For Thomas, his co-stars Will Greer and John Ritter win the award for being the funniest. Greer played Grandpa Zebulon Tyler Walton for six seasons until his death in 1978. Meanwhile, Ritter had a recurring role on the show as a priest.

“Will (Geer) was very funny, too. Another person who was very funny was John Ritter,” Thomas told Smashing Interviews. “Everybody was funny. We laughed a lot on that show. We had a lot of laughs and still do whenever we get together. As these things go, it was a very intense job working nine months, five days a week, fourteen hours a day with people, and being emotional because you’re acting.”

Comedy played an important role on “The Waltons,” according to Thomas. It helped the actors bond between takes and become friends in real life. That chemistry often translated to the characters on-screen as well. In many ways, the cast of “The Waltons” became more than just co-workers. They became a makeshift family off-screen similar to the family that they portrayed during the show’s run.