‘The Waltons’: How Judy Norton Tackled Various Acting Techniques

by Katie Maloney
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Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on “The Waltons” knows a thing or two about acting. You don’t star on a hit show for nine seasons without some serious acting chops. So, when she offers performance advice, we listen. During her most recent episode of “Behind-The-Scenes with Judy Norton“, Norton answered questions from fans. One fan asked her how she avoided looking at the camera while filming scenes.

“There is a whole lot going on, on the other side of the camera that actors have to get very comfortable and used to blocking out. And that’s a little of what happens, we just block it all out,” said Norton.

She then explained why it’s so important to hyperfocus only on the other actors in the scene. She said there are lots of off-camera people doing different things all around the actors while they’re filming a scene.

“Because directly behind the camera is the camera operator, you can see his shoulders and arms. You can see the person who is adjusting the focus on the camera because he is standing on the side of the camera. There are other crew members that might be manning lights or doing different things. Sometimes, if you’re doing something with a branch, and leaves need to pass by, or the reflection of something, somebody might be waving something in front of a light,” said Norton.

How Did Actors on ‘The Waltons’ Avoid Looking at the Camera?

Norton added that maintaining eye contact with co-stars in the scene is key when avoiding looking at the camera.

“Plus the other actors who you are doing the scene with. So, the person usually, if you’re doing a close-up, the person you’re talking to the most will be right next to the camera. So, you’re looking at that person but the camera is right there. So there’s a difference in the eye line. So you just really have to focus on the people you’re talking to. Sometimes there will be other people in the scene, so your eye line might shift depending on what’s happening in the scene.”

So what happens if you do accidentally glance at the camera? It’s not that noticeable, right? Wrong! According to “The Waltons” actress, “the camera sees everything.”

“And it’s very funny because you might think ‘Oh I just glanced at the camera.’ But the camera sees everything. So it wasn’t just something you can sneak by and nobody would notice. The camera sees that,” said Norton laughing.

Norton then mentioned an episode during which her co-star Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth on “The Waltons,” accidentally glanced at the camera. She was a very young girl at the time, so the crew decided to leave the glance in the scene. But if you look carefully, you can see where little Kami slips up.

Judy Norton shares her acting tips from “The Waltons”
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