“The Waltons” premiered in the fall of 1972, and the television drama about a rural family living in the mountains of Virginia in the 1930s was such a hit that it endured until 1981. TODAY’s Lester Holt recently sat down with most of “The Waltons” cast to talk about their experiences filming the show, and to find out what the actors are doing now. Here’s an update on each member of this beloved television family.
Olivia “Livie” Walton (Mom)
Michael Learned recently wrapped up a national tour of the stage version of “On Golden Pond,” co-starring Tom Bosley of “Happy Days” fame. Learned says her husband, three sons and five grandchildren are currently keeping her busy. You might have spotted her on the small screen last year when she guest-starred in a recurring role as Mrs. Wilk on the hit show “Scrubs.”
John Walton Sr. (Dad)
Ralph Waite just finished filming “Ace Ventura 3,” a prequel, in which he plays a 12-year old Ventura’s grandfather. He also guest-starred in a recent episode of “Cold Case.” Waite says he waited all his life to play King Lear on the stage, and thought he should be in his mid-70s to do so. He’s now played the role three times. In the 1990s you might have seen Waite on the big screen in “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner and “Cliffhanger” with Sylvester Stallone. Waite also ran for Congress in the 1990s — he lost that bid, and says he “learned his lesson” and doesn’t plan to run for office again.
John “John Boy” Walton Jr.
Richard Thomas is currently touring the country in the Roundabout Theatre’s stage production of “Twelve Angry Men.” Caution: The following information will make you feel old — Thomas now has not only children, but grandchildren. Since leaving “The Waltons,” Thomas has made more than 40 television movies and played numerous stage roles, including Hamlet and Richard II. Click here for more information on his current project, Twelve Angry Men.
L-R: Kami Cotler, Mary McDonough, Michael Learned, Lisa Harrison, Jon Walmsley, Judy Norton in 2003.
Jon Walmsley says music has always been his first love, an interest that was actually written into the show for his character. He now spends most of his time as a guitarist, performing live and making recordings. He was actually playing a gig the day we filmed the interview with his cast mates. His band is called The Ravers — they play British rock music from the 1960s.
Mary Ellen Walton Willard
Judy Norton spent eight years writing and directing more than 40 shows for two theater companies in Canada. Norton is now raising an 11-year-old son and recently started her own stage show called “Judy Norton and Friends.” Norton says she’s rediscovered her love of singing, and recently recorded a demo. See her Web site for more information.
Eric Scott left acting behind not long after “The Waltons” ended to pursue a career in business. He’s now the vice president of a messenger service in Los Angeles, and the proud father of two daughters and a son.
Mary McDonough can be seen in a recurring role as Mrs. Wilhoite in “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and in the upcoming Hallmark Channel movie “Cadillac Jacks,” which will air December 23. Through the years she’s appeared on “ER,” “Will and Grace” and “Boston Legal,” and has been a special correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight.” She’s currently working on a book about her life. McDonough struggled with complications from silicone breast implants in her 20s, and has since started a nonprofit organization called In the Know, which is dedicated to educating women about their own health.
Kami Cotler, the youngest of the clan, decided acting was fine as a kid, but wanted to pursue a different career as an adult. She became a teacher, and in a twist of fate, found a teaching job in Nelson County, Va. — the area in which “Waltons” creator Earl Hamner grew up, and based the series on. She’s since become a mother of two, and moved back to the Los Angeles area, where she spent the last four years running a charter elementary school.