‘The Waltons’: Why the Filming Schedule Was Insanely Strict

by Keeli Parkey

Filming a television show is hard work and can be very stressful. Depending on the show, the workload can be very heavy. And, the schedule can be very strict. This was the case on “The Waltons” during its run. The show aired from 1972 until 1981.

It was actress Judy Norton who brought this tidbit of “The Waltons” history to light recently. She discussed the show’s schedule during an episode of her popular “Ask Judy” show on her YouTube channel. It is during this show that she fields questions for fans of the show as well as sharing her thoughts about its production, cast, history, and much, much more.

In March 2021, Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton on the famous family drama, shared details about the show’s filming schedule. The discussion was prompted by a fan’s question about filming the show.

“Melissa asks, ‘Did you have much time off during the series?'” Norton read. “How many days did you work each week? Shows on TV today don’t have that many episodes anymore.”

In response, “The Waltons” actress said fan Melissa was correct in her statement that television in recent years did not produce as many episodes during a season as older shows such as “The Waltons” did. Norton then added more details about the show’s production.

Judy Norton of ‘The Waltons’ Said Actors Filmed the Show ‘About Nine Months Out of the Year’ While Series Aired

And, according to Norton, the cast worked for much of the year while “The Waltons” was airing on television.

“We worked about nine months out of the year, because we did 22 to 26 episodes per season, which is like, never happens anymore,” Norton said on her YouTube channel.

“The Waltons” actress then discussed the show’s filming schedule in greater detail.

“And, we were an hour long episode,” Judy Norton said. “So, we took six-and-a-half days to film. We did have Saturdays and Sundays off. We would start filming for the season usually around May. And, we would take holidays, some holidays off, not all. Like we would take Thanksgiving off. We would usually have about a week at Christmas, sometimes two. And sometimes it was one other point in the year when we had maybe a week long break.”

Even with those breaks, the cast of “The Waltons” worked diligently for approximately nine months each year during the show’s run. And, according to Norton, the cast always had to be ready to come in to film – even on their days off.

“During episodes, if you had a very light storyline, you might have days off,” Judy Norton recalled. “… But you were always sort of on call because if something had to change with the schedule then they might suddenly say, ‘Oh, we need you tomorrow.’ So, you could tentatively make plans, but you had to be ready to change them at any moment because we were under contract and our first obligation was to be available when they needed us at work.”

You can watch Judy Norton’s video about “The Waltons” below.