‘The Waltons’: Sissy Spacek Played Reoccuring Guest Character Shortly Before Taking on ‘Carrie’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Sissy Spacek might not have won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe without her recurring role on The Waltons.

Did you know Spacek played Sarah Jane Simmons, a teenager desperate to leave Waltons Mountain for the brighter lights of a bigger city? She appeared in two episodes, playing the daughter of a widow. Spacek, as Sarah Jane, was friends with the Walton kids, including John Boy.

Spacek grew up in Quitman, a tiny town in northeast Texas. Her cousin is the late Rip Torn, an Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee. Torn talked Spacek into living in New York. He helped her enroll at the Actors Studio. But this was only after Sissy Spacek tried singing under the stage name Rainbo. She recorded a song in 1968 called “John You Went Too Far This Time.” The song was about John Lennon and wife, Yoko Ono, appearing nude on an album cover.

Spacek’s first role was in the movie, Trash. And that part wasn’t listed in the credits.

Sissy Spacek Landed Role As Sarah Jane on The Waltons in 1973

Then she landed Sarah Jane. This was in 1973. Do you remember her character? She was forced to deal with a miserable family life. She became involved with a college boy. That was her first Waltons episode. In the second, she returns pregnant. She crosses paths with John Boy, who was spending a night away from home to focus on his writing.

The career of Sissy Spacek took off shortly after The Waltons. That’s when he earned the part of Holly, the 15-year-old old in Badlands. The movie was loosely based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. Spacek’s Holly was Caril Ann opposite Martin Sheen.

Spacek continued to play creepy characters. Remember Carrie, the high school girl with telekinetic powers? The 1976 movie was based on Stephen King’s first novel, so it was super scary. The other kids bullied Carrie, the shy 16-year-old. Her mother was fanatically religious. It made for a toxic mix for a girl with developing mental powers.

Carrie finally felt comfortable and accepted when she won prom queen. But it was all a set up. As she stood on stage, pig’s blood was poured on her head. She thought the fellow students were mocking her. But only two set her up. Her anger seals all the exits, then sets the gym on fire. Most everyone at the dance dies. As Carrie walked home, the kids who played the prank with the pig’s blood try to run over her with their car. Carrie’s anger flips over the car.

When Carrie arrived home, her mother tried to kill her. So Carrie’s mind flipped knives at her mother and pinned her against the wall. She died, too. Carrie burned down the house and perished in the flames.

It became a classic Sissy Spacek role. She earned a Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

But then Spacek flipped her creepy reputation on its head. In 1980, she portrayed Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter. That won her the Academy Award.

Maybe it was all because of The Waltons.

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