‘The Waltons’: Mary Ellen Actress Judy Norton Used Sneaky Trick When She Forgot Her Lines

by John Jamison
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Fans know Judy Norton as the eldest Walton daughter, Mary Ellen. She played the character for nearly 10 years. Any actor is bound to forget a few lines over that amount of time, and Norton is no exception. So what did she do when her mind went blank in the middle of a scene?

It’s simpler than you might think. She simply stopped talking while she recollected her lines.

“Definitely went blank on lines occasionally,” Norton said in a recent Youtube upload. “There would be times, I’d be doing a scene, and I was going through and I was doing it and I’d be like, ‘I have no idea what my next line is’ and the other actor would be talking and I’d be like, just responding to what that actor was saying going ‘I sure hope when it’s my time to talk I remember what I’m supposed to say.’ Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t.”

For the times when Judy Norton did forget her lines, the magic of editing could cut around any of her awkward pauses or freezes. But if she continued speaking there’d be no way to seamlessly edit the conversation and the scene would be ruined.

“The script supervisor will throw you a line and you pause for a second,” “The Waltons” star continued. “You reset. And you just go on. Because then they can edit, because each time there’s a pause, there’s an opportunity for the editor to make a cut.”

Thank goodness for editing.

According To “The Waltons” Star, The Stage Is Less Forgiving

Judy Norton’s acting career extends beyond her time on “The Waltons.” The talented performer has also spent time acting in live plays. And unfortunately, movie-making magic can’t bail you out on stage.

“On stage, of course, you can’t retake. So you always just have to say something. And I’ve had those experiences where I went completely blank. Fortunately not very often. In one case, I was on stage alone, and had to come up with something on my own,” Norton said. “If there’s other actors they will usually help you and guide each other back to where you’re supposed to be. So all those things happen and that is part of the thrill and excitement of doing live theater.”

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