‘The Waltons’ Dinner Scenes Came in Three ‘Phases’: Here’s Why

by Katie Maloney
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Judy Norton shared secret details about the meal scenes in “The Waltons.”

Meal scenes are often the only times audiences can watch all of their favorite characters together at one time. This was definitely the case for “The Waltons.” With seven kids running around, it was probably often difficult to write scenes that included the entire family. So, meal scenes were a big deal. They were also a big deal to film – have you ever tried to keep seven kids engaged around a dinner table? In order to work as efficiently as possible, the crew filmed meal scenes in three segments. Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on “The Waltons” described the three segments during her video series “Behind-the-Scenes with Judy Norton.”

The first scenes the cast and crew filmed were the scenes that took place right before the meal, or as the family was preparing to eat. The second segment came mid-dinner while the family was at the height of their meal time. And the third filming segment came as the family finished the meal and cleaned up after dinner.

“Now dinner came in three phases. There were the scenes that were at the beginning of the dinner. Where everybody came and sat down, and the food was being put on the table. We joined hands and said grace and then the meal started. Sometimes the end of the scene was right about the time the meal started. Just as we were passing things around. In those cases, we typically didn’t actually eat. We were more starting to put food on the plates.”

Judy Norton talks about meal times on “The Waltons”

Secret Mealtime Filming Tactics

Even those scenes, although they were the most simple of all the meal scenes, presented challenges, according to Norton.

“Oftentimes, they would cut right away. So that all the food that was on the plates on the table wasn’t disturbed too much. So we could do multiple takes without having to replenish the food,” said Norton.

Norton said that there were even filming tactics to help preserve food when things like turkey or ham were being carved in a scene.

“Or if something was being carved, if John was going to carve a turkey or a ham. Just about the time he got there and was set to carve, they cut. Because it was hard, you can’t have a bunch of uncarved turkeys,” said Norton. “So they’d make sure they got what they wanted before he cut. “

How Much Food Did Judy Norton Actually Eat During The Meal Scenes On ‘The Waltons’?

So, did Judy Norton actually eat during “The Waltons” family meal scenes?

“You know what we had and how much I ate really depended on if it was something I liked or not,” said Norton. “And what time of the day it was, how hungry I was. If it was early in the day. And it smelled and tasted good, I might say ‘Hey, I wanna eat this.” If it was a little later in the day. And I had been eating all day, I might be like picking at the food, moving it around, cutting it. To avoid having to eat take after take after take.”

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