Actress Judy Norton opened up about having to navigate the same teenage difficulties she portrayed on The Waltons.
Think back to when you were 13-years old. Remember when you tried to move your body with some semblance of coordination at your first dance? Or when you’d randomly erupt in a fit of rage because you wanted pancakes but there was no pancake mix? Or when your body started changing and life seemed so much more complicated as you navigate your first years as a teenager? Are you cringing yet? Now, imagine going through all of those experiences on camera. That’s what Judy Norton faced while playing Mary Ellen on The Waltons.
The Waltons featured a family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. The show ran from 1971 until 1981. Judy starred as the family’s headstrong tomboy. She first landed the role at the same age she played on the show, 13-years old. So, Judy was dealing with the same uncomfortable and awkward changes that her character was navigating on the show. During an interview, Judy opened up about what it was like to experience in real-life what she was portraying on-screen.
“I was able to navigate those really awkward years while I was working on the series,” said Judy. “At times it was difficult as an actor because as I was going through those angst-ridden years. They were also being reflected in the story that was being told… So at times, I felt, ‘Oh goodness, my life is on display. And this is really making me feel self-conscious.’ All those things made it a wonderful show, but sometimes it was uncomfortable to go portray that.”
However, Judy said that she connected with her character in more ways than just mutual pubescent discomfort.
“I did relate to aspects of my character,” said Judy. “I was very much into sports, and I loved the rebellious, non-conforming characteristics of Mary Ellen. And we were telling these universal stories. Although it was set in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the stories were about… bringing out the best in people.”
Judy Norton Had Her First Onscreen Kiss On The Waltons
During one episode, Mary Ellen experiences one of the most beautiful yet awkward and terrifying teenage milestones: her first kiss. Although this wasn’t Judy’s first kiss ever, it was her first on-screen kiss. During a behind the scenes video, Judy shared details about the scene.
“This was a pretty pivotal episode for both my character and for myself. Because in this episode not only did Mary Ellen experience her first kiss…but for me, it was my first onscreen kiss. So, it was a pretty big deal,” said Judy.
Judy explains that Mary Ellen is going through that confusing teenage phase when “she’s not a child anymore but she’s not quite an adult yet either.” Judy was experiencing the same phase herself in her own life.
“A lot of the things that Mary Ellen went through were things I was experiencing in my own personal life. So, sometimes the show just got a little too close for comfort for me. Sometimes, a lot of the discomfort you see mary Ellen facing was really very real for me. I was experiencing a lot of that teenage discomfort just trying to figure out who I was in my own skin,” said Judy.