TODAY   |  December 02, 2011

Meet the Waltons, reunited!

The cast of the Emmy award-winning TV show “The Waltons” joins TODAY to talk about their 40th anniversary reunion, appearing in public together for the first time in over 20 years.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning on today's update, one of television's most cherished families. 40 years ago america fell in love with the waltons. a big family with seven kids growing up during the great depression and world war ii in the blue ridge mountains of virginia. we watched them face hardships they always seemed to overcome together.

>> where'd you get the money?

>> working for the baldwin ladies.

>> somebody show me how this thing works.

>> when we were living through them we called them bad times and thought we were poor. only after we had all grown up were we to realize what good times they add been and how very rich we were. often in memory, i returned to that house and to the echoes of those voices.

>> good night, john boy .

>> good night.

>> good night, daddy.

>> good night, son.

>> we're happy to say we are joined now by ma. richard thomas was john boy . the youngest walton played by kami cotler . eric scott was ben. mary beth mcdonough was erin. and jon walmsley was jason walton. okay. we're out of time. you haven't changed a bit. do you stay in contact? what's it like to stit in this group again?

>> we get giddy.

>> i was reading last night this material. do you know what jumped out at me? this all these years with all the time you spent together on the set and all you know about each other, not one person went out and wrote a tell-all book. is that not true?

>> my book is not a tell-all, but it does tell the loving, wonderful memories.

>> that's not what i mean. you know what i mean . not one person said, yeah, let me tell you what was really going on.

>> it wasn't like that.

>> no arrests, no convictions.

>> confidentiality agreement?

>> gag orders all around.

>> was it a happy set ?

>> it was.

>> it really was.

>> what was it like?

>> just great fun.

>> like family.

>> practical jokes.

>> this one and john ritter .

>> ritter and i were naughty together.

>> we had a great time, all of us.

>> except me.

>> you didn't love it?

>> no.

>> for those of you who were the kids on the show, raise your hands. what was it like being so famous at such a young age?

>> we were pretty isolated from the public a lot of the time. i don't think we had a real sense of the impact of the show. i think a lot until almost the show being over.

>> it's also -- it was a different time to be famous.

>> not like the all reality tv time we live in now.

>> not at all. on the whole, when waltons fans meet you, they feel like you're family. so there isn't that kind of get you or gotcha intrusive thing. people want to give you a hug.

>> so many of us. there were six of us so it wasn't like one star. and everybody in the world is focused on that. we all had each other and we became like siblings.

>> the show was based in a time of depression and war. yet -- those aren't cheery subjects. why do you think so many people embraced it is this.

>> family is family.

>> community.

>> you know, we really did have a strong bond , all of us together. i think it came across on camera. people could relate. it was just family stories, family stuff. nowadays, i think it's on all the time.

>> three different cable channels run reruns. do you check it out?

>> every now and then.

>> does it hold up or seem dated to you?

>> it was dated when we did it.

>> it was already a period show. so it holds up for that reason.

>> i think the writing is so good at home.

>> you have all heard it a thousand times. just tee off on this. what do you say when people say, it was just too sugary.

>> you know, it wasn't. that's what annoys me because in the beginning it was not. toward the end it fell in love with itself but in the beginning we were dealing with book burning in germany, the dust bowl cousins, the hindenberg. we were dealing with segregation. we were dealing with real issues as well as the warmth of the family.

>> i think the criticism tends to come from people who really didn't watch the show and weren't aware of it.

>> even nowadays with what we are going through as a country. you see people are still having good times laughing as a family. may not have anything to go and buy, but they are together. that's what we were doing then. having a good time.

>> refresh my memory. who was part of the original movie "the homecoming"? you were not. michael, you took over for patricpa tri patricia neil. what was it like joining a cast?

>> i said, please help me out. i haven't done television in a long time. i tested with richard and ralph what was a blessing because i was hung over and didn't know what i was doing.

>> you pulled her through?

>> there was always a dinner scene. did you like them?

>> no!

>> no! they were awful.

>> that was my favorite part.

>> i was always in tears at the end. they went on forever with mashed potatoes getting shoved back in the bowl and rescooped out.

>> it was one camera and a lot of people.

>> the kids would be flinging peas.

>> the breakfast scene, the dinner and maybe another dinner scene. you were at the table all day long.

>> all i did was pour coffee. more coffee, jon?

>> and people would laugh during the prayer.

>> people were always visiting. you always had guest stars which had to keep it fun.

>> i have heard that before.

>> was it fun to have the visitors?

>> always.

>> a lot of people started out. sissy spacek started on our show.

>> ritter.

>> how many times have you heard over the years, richard --

>> good night, john boy ? countless.

>> is it fun or does it haunt you?

>> it 's wonderful . the idea that 40 years later people will still shout it to me on the street is the most extraordinary thing.

>> it haunts us because they ask us to say it.

>> did someone say that in the middle of a play you were doing?

>> yeah.

>> every now and then.

>> guys, a big thank you. great to have you back. happy holidays . because we must --

>> good night, john boy ! we are back with much more right after your local news and weather. well done. nice