Even though Richard Thomas only spent five seasons as John-Boy on “The Waltons,” he has plenty of perspective on the dynamics of the cast and crew. For example, one of the things he knows plenty about is the process of filming the show’s iconic dinner scenes.
Fans of “The Waltons” remember the scenes fondly. The dinner table provided a forum at which the whole family could be together. Everyone from the top-down would be present, from the grandparents to the seven Walton children. But entertaining as they are for us to watch, these dinner scenes were apparently a huge chore to shoot.
In a 2016 interview with the Archive of American Television, Richard Thomas recalled how agonizing they could be.
“Well, dinner scenes are wonderful in theory,” Thomas said. “They were at the heart of the show. And there were many things about them that were interesting. First of all, they could be a nightmare to shoot. They take a long time. So by the time the dinner scene is over, everybody is just in a foul mood- you know, ready to just get out.”
‘The Waltons’ Co-Star Judy Norton Sheds Light on Why Dinner Scenes were so Rough
So, clearly, Richard Thomas remembers filming dinner scenes in a burdensome light. But how does his co-star Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton, recall those moments? Well, she pretty much echoes his sentiments.
In a video she uploaded to her Youtube channel, Norton talks about some of the challenges the cast faced whenever they gathered around the table.
“Usually we could get through all the kitchen stuff in one day. But it was always really hot in there,” Norton said. And in the morning when you’d come in and there was, you know, nice, fresh food, it was like- and you’re hungry, we would want to eat, you know. But you soon learned to not over amp, because what happened was they’d shoot the big, wide, what we’d call the master with everybody in, and whatever you did in that shot, when they came into closeups, you had to do the same thing. You had to match it.”
Very relatable stuff. Who could resist a plate full of hot food? No wonder everyone was so on edge. They all had fresh food sitting in front of them that—unless they wanted to keep eating it hours later when they finished shooting the scene—they couldn’t dig into. And adding to that frustration was the discomfort of a hot room.
The “foul moods” Richard Thomas described are starting to make sense now.