Judy Norton began acting when she was about five years old. Her father had her enrolled in musical theater classes, and this greatly spiked her love for performance. By 1971, she was a major face on 'The Waltons', playing Mary Ellen.
The show ran for 213 episodes and remains one of Norton’s most celebrated TV jobs. Speaking with Moviehole in April this year, she shared about how much playing the role of Mary Ellen and her engagement with the show had impacted her life.
People still identify me with Mary Ellen. I’m recognized and I still get called Mary Ellen far more than Judy! We’re so fortunate to have done a show to have a long-term impact on people — the show is in Canada and other parts of the world, what a legacy, a timeless show.
Although the show was set in the 1930’s and 1940’s, she said the issues explored on the show were still relevant even today. This has in many ways driven her passion to positively influence television viewers.
At 60, Norton says there is a constant need to reinvent oneself in order to stay relevant. She shared her thoughts on ageing with Fox News and her drive to learn more about the art of film making, and not just as an actor.
I guess at my core, I’m an artist. And so the opportunity to utilize my imagination, create things and share stories is what makes me happy and fulfills me…
Norton recently wrote, produced, and starred in her film 'Inclusion Criteria' which signals a new direction for the iconic TV star. Acknowledging that older women were less in demand than their younger counterparts, she says her move is a step in the right direction.
And as you get older as a woman, there are fewer roles. So it can be a bit challenging to stay satisfied as an actor. As a writer, [my] age, sex, how I looked – it didn’t matter. … It was a great training route to hone my storytelling skills.
Like Norton, other cast members from the show have moved on to other endeavors. Richard Thomas played John-Boy Walton in sixth season of 'The Waltons' and appeared in several episodes of 'Blue Bloods' in 2017. Jon Walmsley who played Jason Walton put acting on the back burner and now works as a composer, musician, and music producer.
Kami Cotler played Elizabeth Walton for the entire series and retired from acting in 2011, as did David W. Harper who played Jim-Bob Walton. Producers of the show still hold events on a regular basis to celebrate the cast and crew.