‘The Waltons’: Two Co-Stars Became Close Friends On and Off the Drama

by Joe Rutland
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“The Waltons” is definitely a television family drama that drew people closer. It happened for viewers, but did it for cast members?

In one case, it sure did. Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on the CBS show, became close friends with Mary McDonough, who played Erin.

Norton talked about getting to know Mary a bit more in a recent “Behind the Scenes of The Waltons” episode.

“When we first met Erin in ‘The Homecoming,’ she was the tattletale, the who ran to Mama and said that I was the one saying bad words,” Norton says. “But she became more than that.”

Norton says McDonough is “the pretty one.” She talks about Erin Walton, in the episode “The Fire Storm” entering the beauty pageant and becomes so heartbroken when she didn’t win.

“She blamed John-Boy,” Norton said, talking about Richard Thomas’ character on “The Waltons.”

‘The Waltons’ Star Norton Calls McDonough ‘One Of Her Best Friends’

Norton says that over the years, McDonough has been one of her best friends.

“We have shared so much together,” Norton says. “One season between episodes, we had our usual three months off, we decided to take a vacation together. We went on a cruise. That was a real adventure.”

Both Norton and McDonough have traveled to see one another when working, Norton said.

One area of McDonough’s creative life Norton focused upon is her ability to write books. McDonough has written not only a book about her time on “The Waltons,” but also novels, too. One of them is turned into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.

Norton Says Co-Star Helped Introduce Her To Musical Theater

McDonough “has become such a wonderfully accomplished person,” Norton says. “I’m just so glad to be associated with (her).”

Norton also credits McDonough for helping lead her into musical theater.

“When I was 15, she invited me to go to a production that, I believe, her brother’s high school was doing,” she said. Norton remembers it being a production of “Camelot.”

Norton says she “became absolutely enamored of musical theater.” It would lead her to pursue it for her career.

“So our lives have intertwined in oh, so many ways,” Norton said.

For her own career, Norton has gone on to be deeply involved in theater work. One show in recent years found her playing the lead in Jerry Herman’s Broadway hit “Hello, Dolly!” In fact, “The Waltons” star shared the stage with another TV sitcom star in Don Most of “Happy Days” fame. Most played Ralph Malph in the ABC show.

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