Judy Norton played the headstrong Mary Ellen on The Waltons. She was the eldest daughter. Currently, Norton hosts a web series in which she looks back at her days on the classic show.
The Waltons ran for nine seasons between 1972 and 1981. Over the course of the series, the world came to know and love the titular family. They were a large family living through the Great Depression and WWII in rural Virginia. The members of the family weren’t ridiculous caricatures of “country bumpkins,” like many rural-set TV shows. Instead, audiences saw them as real people with real lives. Behind the scenes, the actors formed strong bonds which made their familial roles in the series seem more convincing. Judy Norton and Mary McDonough played sisters on-screen and were nearly as close when the cameras stopped rolling.
Judy Norton looked back on the early days of her friendship with Mary McDonough in a video from 2020. She recalled that between seasons of The Waltons, the cast and crew had three months off. So, during that downtime, she and McDonough decided that they would take a vacation together.
Judy Norton and Mary McDonough Take a Cruise
The pair of Waltons co-stars decided that they would take a cruise together. Judy Norton recalled that they found themselves in an odd situation while aboard the ship. It all started with their decision to not “make a big deal” out of the fact that they were on one of the biggest television shows in the country. If someone recognized them, they wouldn’t lie about it. On the other hand, they weren’t going to announce it.
For one, Judy Norton was on vacation with her friend. They just wanted to relax and enjoy the cruise and the excursions. At the same time, they didn’t want to come off like they were bragging about being on The Waltons. So, they kept it to themselves.
Everyone had assigned tables for meals. Judy Norton and Mary McDonough found themselves at a table with a “lovely group of people,” according to the video. They presumably chatted while eating and probably got to know one another as much as possible.
Later on in the cruise, Judy Norton recalled, a handful of people recognized them from the show. So, word started going around that two of the Walton kids were on the ship. It didn’t take long for word to get back around to their tablemates.
Judy Norton said that some of the people at the table were upset that they had been eating with television stars and didn’t know it.
To this day, Norton says, she doesn’t know what the right course of action would have been. On one hand, they didn’t want to seem like they were showing off. On the other hand, they inadvertently hurt the feelings of some of the people at their table. In the end, she said, it was a no-win situation.