Fans of The Waltons rejoice; there’s going to be a 50th-anniversary remake of the classic 1971 film The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, a precursor to The Waltons, and the family has already been cast.
The new film, titled The Waltons’ Homecoming, stars Bellamy Young as Olivia; Christian Finlayson as Jason; Marcelle LeBlanc as Mary Ellen; Logan Shroyer as John Boy; Ben Lawson as John Sr.; Tatum Sue Matthews as Erin; Callaway Corrick as Elizabeth; and Samuel Georgon as Jim Bob.
Former John Boy, Richard Thomas, is narrating the film. He says this version of Homecoming also focuses on familial love. On the show, writer and producer Earl Hamner provided the narration for each episode; he has stated that John Boy is based off of himself as a boy, so it’s only right that the original John Boy do the new narration in his stead.
Ralph Waite Got Sober Because of ‘The Waltons’
The love and support from family can sometimes help immensely when dealing with difficult personal issues; but, sometimes it’s your TV family that gets you through it.
Before landing his role as The Waltons patriarch, Ralph Waite had a tragedy in his own family; he lost his oldest daughter to Leukemia in 1964, then his marriage ended in 1969. Waite was distraught and turned to alcohol.
He landed the role of John Walton two years later and found solace in his new family. He credits a scene filmed with the family sitting around the dinner table as his motivation to quit drinking.
“He credited the show for being the reason he got sober,” Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen, said once. “He said, ‘I sat there one day at the kitchen table with all you kids and I felt like such a fake.’ He took himself to AA and got sober.”
Michael Learned Doesn’t Think the Show was ‘Soft’
Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton on the series, disagrees wholeheartedly with anyone who thinks The Waltons was a soft show, just because it portrayed a slice-of-life.
“People think it was soft and saccharine and it really wasn’t in the beginning,” she told the Archive of American Television in 2015. She continued, “I mean, Grandma was not soft and saccharine. Grandpa had an eye for the ladies and the Baldwin sisters drank too much.”
Learned knows that the show was anything but soft; what The Waltons did was give viewers a sense of comfort in their everyday lives. It let them know, yes, things can be like this. Families can love and support one another unconditionally.
Michael Learned also provided love and support off-screen, as well. Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, remembers being able to go to Learned with her troubles. “Michael is one of the most sensitive and caring people I know. She was always warm to all of the kids,” Cotler said. “I could go to Michael with more dramatic feelings and she’d be a great listener and support.”