‘The Waltons’: One Actress Explained Major Regrets of Post-Show Playboy Shoot

by Suzanne Halliburton

Judy Norton really went out of her way to shake her good girl, Waltons stereotype.

Norton played Mary Ellen, the oldest daughter in “The Waltons.” She was 13 when she became Mary Ellen, a headstrong, athletic teenager who lived with her parents, grandparents and six brothers and sisters on Walton’s mountain. The series started with a Christmas movie in 1971 and continued through Thanksgiving 1980. There were six movies. Judy Norton played Mary Ellen in each one.

Grown-up Mary Ellen Walton became a nurse and married a doctor.

Grown-up Judy Norton Redefined Her Image Waltons Image With Playboy Shoot

But grown-up Judy Norton wanted to redefine herself. She married and then divorced her first husband before the show even ended. Plus, successful child actors often can’t make the transition to successful adult actors.

So Judy Norton decided to pose nude for Playboy. She appeared in the August 1985, edition of the men’s magazine.

With decades of hindsight, she said posing for Playboy was a mistake.

“I was getting a lot of advice from people who were representing me at the time,” Norton said in a 2018 interview with Fox News. “They felt it would be a good, positive career move. I wouldn’t say that was the case and it’s one of those things that if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have made the choice.

“I learned a lot of lessons from it, in terms of trusting my own instincts and decisions more than other people’s, even though it seemed like they knew more than me. Ultimately, I’m the one that had to live with a difficult decision to make at the time. It is what it is. You can only go forward.”

Richard Thomas, who played John Boy, the show’s star, was the only one of the child actors to enjoy a successful acting career as an adult.

Norton Said She Got Some Good Photos Out of Magazine Spread

Judy Norton just celebrated her 63rd birthday. She once thought that she’d look back rather fondly of her Playboy spread.

“When I’m old and sagging and decrepit, I might look back and figure at least I’ve got some pretty pictures,” she said in a British show that documented what happened to the cast, post-Walton’s.

Judy Norton got married four times. In 1976, she married in real life and on the show. She never really completely shook her image as Mary Ellen. But then again, playing the character accounted for 10 years on television and six movies. That’s a nice career.

These days, she stars in a web series called “The Quarantine Bunch.” It’s on YouTube and was shot on Zoom. That’s really far away from The Waltons.