‘The Waltons’: Judy Norton Discusses Her Character Mary Ellen’s ‘Changes’ in ‘The Thoroughbred’ Episode

by Clayton Edwards
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Judy Norton played Mary Ellen on The Waltons for nine seasons. She was the eldest daughter of the family. Other characters on the show as well as fans watching at home knew her as being headstrong and outspoken. However, the character went through several changes over the years. After all, nine years is a long time for a young person. This is especially true when moving from teenage years to adulthood.

Over the course of the series, Judy Norton grew into a young woman. On the screen, Mary Ellen matured, got married, and moved out of the family home. Then, she lost her husband and moved back to the family home. She also became a doctor. So, she went through a range of changes and development over the years.

Currently, Judy Norton produces a web series in which she pulls back the curtain on The Waltons. Sometimes, she breaks down whole episodes from her perspective. Other times, she talks about broad topics related to the series. In an installment of her show from January of this year, Norton talked about “The Thoroughbred,” from season three. During the video, she talks about the changes that Mary Ellen experienced in the episode.

Judy Norton on Mary Ellen’s Changes

Judy Norton points out that she made a bit of a change to her character in “The Thoroughbred.” Namely, she changed Mary Ellen’s hairstyle.

About this, Norton said, “Mary Ellen has a little bit of a turn in this episode. Notice that I have my hair in a bun.” Judy Norton said that moving into season three, she thought that Mary Ellen was getting a bit more mature. She assumed that there was probably a point in a young woman’s life where she stopped wearing her hair down and start putting it up. So, Norton thought that the bun would be appropriate.

The bun didn’t last long, though. Judy Norton laughingly recalls, “I don’t remember if it was this season or in another season but I got tired of it being in a bun and started wearing it down again.”

However, as Judy Norton recalls, Mary Ellen’s hairstyle wasn’t the only thing that changed around the time of this episode. About this, she said, “There were comments within this episode about how Mary Ellen seems to be more agreeable. When asked to do something, she’s just like ‘yeah sure,’.”

Judy Norton went on to say that many of the characters in the show noticed that Mary Ellen seemed more mature. In fact, she said that someone commented on how they hoped the “new Mary Ellen,” stayed around.

Now, this is more due to the writing than anything. However, Norton highlighted it with a change in hairstyle that matched Mary Ellen’s change in demeanor.

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