‘The Waltons’: Why Judy Norton’s Acting Skills Were Challenged on the Series

by Madison Miller
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Judy Norton started portraying Mary Ellen Walton in “The Waltons” when she was in her early teens.

The dramatic show had a series of heavier plot lines and dramatic moments between actors. From death to violence to tragic fires, “The Waltons” circled through a lot. Before her regular role on the show, Norton had only had a few other small roles.

In her YouTube series, Judy Norton talks about some of the episodes that she found particularly challenging.

“I was challenged by ‘The Grandchild’ because I’d never had a child. So, having to determine and make choices about the actual giving birth what that might be like. I did research and did my best, so hopefully, it was believable,” Norton said.

“The Grandchild” was a two-part episode from 1977. In the episode, Mary Ellen is about to give birth to her child. One of her friend’s babies is born prematurely and is stillborn. She tries to torment Mary Ellen with wishes of bad luck and negative conversations.

At the time, Norton was only about 19 or so and did not have any kids. Her knowledge of giving birth had to come from any kind of research and advice she could find. Norton has been married four different times and now has two kids of her own.

Judy Norton Struggled with Plot of Episode

Besides that episode, Judy Norton struggled with another “The Waltons” episode because she just didn’t find it that realistic.

“The other one that was challenging was ‘The Tempest,’ when Curt came back when we found out he was still alive. That episode was challenging for a number of reasons. I had some difficulty with the storyline, and with some of the aspects of that, some of the dialogue, I found it difficult to believe in that circumstance,” Norton said.

She went on to say that a part of acting is being able to tap into what is real, which is why this unrealistic storyline started to affect her. This is a later episode that released in 1981. Her character travels to Florida and discovers that Curtis is alive, although wounded and different than he once was.

Curtis was the first husband of Mary Ellen until he supposedly dies. The two come to terms with the fact that their marriage is very much over, despite him being alive.

‘The Waltons’ Difficulties on Set

For many of “The Waltons” stars, they had partially grown up with the show. It would be their first big appearance in the entertainment world.

In fact, most of the cast, even if they’re active in other projects, continues to be referred to by their characters on the drama show.

According to an interview with Closer Weekly in 2017, the younger actors sometimes got treated differently compared to the parent figures on the show. Richard Thomas, Michael Learned, and Ralph Waite all got special treatment.

Judy Norton recalled one time Michael Learned was given a massive flower arrangement, but nothing was sent to the younger stars. Norton recalls her saying, “‘These kids have given you years of their lives and you can’t even get them something?’ … We ended up getting a little muffin basket with, like, three muffins in it.”

The cast would joke about how cheap the studio was. Learned joked that their idea of a party was “one can of beer and 13 straws.”

Despite a sometimes difficult time behind-the-scenes, the cast has always talked about how close they were while filming.

Outsider.com