‘The Waltons’: Mary Ellen Actress Judy Norton Revealed ‘The Moment’ That Helped Her Land Role

by Joe Rutland
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Actors hope to leave a good impression when going to audition for a part. Judy Norton did leave one, leading to her role in “The Waltons.”

Norton did go to auditions for “The Homecoming,” a TV movie that introduced the Walton family to TV viewers. If it did well, then CBS would turn it into a series.

But Norton had to get the part of Mary Ellen Walton, eldest daughter of John Walton Sr. and Olivia Walton, first. She said that she got a call from her agent and learned a little bit about Mary Ellen.

Judy Norton Fit Tomboy Role That Led To ‘The Waltons’

“Basically that she was a tomboy and the role was for a TV movie,” Norton says to Everything Zoomer.

“I played a lot of sports as a kid, so I understood the character and easily identified with her,” Norton said. “During the audition process, the producers had us do the scene in ‘The Homecoming’ where the family is cracking walnuts together in the barn.”

This happened to let Norton have, as she calls it, a “moment.” The scene features Mary Ellen and “involved a long speech from her about the world being so small and people being nothing,” she said.

Listen to Judy Norton talk a little more about casting roles for “The Homecoming.”

Norton Handles ‘Moment’ Perfectly For Casting Executives

Obviously, Judy Norton wanted to make such a memory that casting executives would remember her. It turns out that she nailed the opportunity.

“I got called back and the casting directors brought the six of us into a room and they told us that we got the parts,” Judy Norton said. “It was incredibly unusual because you almost never get cast while still in the room.”

Now there is one role that didn’t get cast in that audition. Casting executives were holding separate auditions for John-Boy Walton. Ultimately, actor Richard Thomas earned the right to play John-Boy in “The Homecoming.”

Norton, Thomas, and others who appeared in “The Homecoming” would find themselves soon enough on “The Waltons.”

Norton Says Producers ‘Pleaded’ Viewers To Watch Show

Starting out, “The Waltons” was not an immediate hit for CBS. In fact, the show was en route to Cancellation City. Norton said the show producers became really desperate.

In an interview with Fox News, she said the show needed a lot of support ASAP.

“It was really the producers who went out and created a grassroots campaign, like taking out ads and doing interviews in the heartland, in Middle America, where we really found our audience,” Norton said.

The show ultimately found its audience, grew from there, and the rest is TV history for show creator Earl Hamner and the show producers.

Outsider.com