Actress Michael Learned opens up about how she wanted to move forward after starring on The Waltons.
Michael Learned portrayed one of America’s favorite mothers, Olivia Walton, on the CBS drama series The Waltons. For her work, Learned won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series four times. However, after The Waltons ended, Learned wanted to move away from work in television. During an interview, she shared that she is a theater performer at heart and wanted to go back to a “dusty theater somewhere.”
“I did not want to do another series. I’m a theater person, that’s how I started. It’s where I’m most comfortable – in a ratty old dressing room in a dusty theater somewhere,” said Learned. “I want to work with words. Television is not about words, really. It isn’t that there isn’t great writing, there is. But it’s not what you come away with when you’re watching a tv show. You come away with visuals.”
But Hollywood wouldn’t let Learned getaway that quickly. Shortly after The Waltons ended, producers of the hospital drama, Nurse, offered Learned a role. But Learned was hesitant. She said she didn’t want to “once again, I’ll be holding people’s hands and looking compassionate and empathetic.” The producers assured her that the show would be “gritty.”
“Okay, well then make me an offer I can’t refuse,” Learned said to the producers.
And they did. So she took the role.
“Basically, the offer was that it would shoot in New York. Which is where I lived at the time and where I wanted to stay,” said Learned. The rest is Hollywood history.
Micheal Learned Shares What She Thinks Is The Waltons Legacy
Undoubtedly, The Waltons was an iconic show for the entire nation. But what is the true legacy of the show? Learned shared that it’s not about how long the show will be around. In fact, she said that the show no longer appeals to younger generations and that it will probably be obsolete 20 years from now. However, Learned said that the legacy of the show remains in the hearts of fans.
“It will live through the hearts of people who responded emotionally and mentally to the message that The Waltons gave which is the message of love, and forgiveness and carry-on and strength. And those are good messages,” said Learned.
Learned said that people still share with her what they learned from the show.
“They’ll tell me ‘Your character taught me how to be a mother.’ Or, ‘Your character was my mother.’ One woman told me recently that, ‘my mother died when I was very young and you were my mother. Every Thursday, I looked forward to the show, because you were my mother.’ Obviously, I wasn’t,” said Learned. “But there was something there that spoke to her heart. And that’s important.”