• June 16, 2024

‘The Waltons’ Cast, Then and Now

CBS’s hit series The Waltons told the story of a tight-knit family making do during the Great Depression. The show, which premiered in 1972 and ran until 1981, was based on creator Earl Hamner Jr.’s experiences growing up in rural Virginia in the 1930s. It made stars out of its cast, including Michael Learned, who played family matriarch Olivia Walton, and Richard Thomas, who portrayed the eldest Walton son, John-Boy. But what have Learned, Thomas, and the rest of cast been up to since the show ended? Keep reading for an update on the surviving Waltons cast members and what they doing now.

Michael Learned recently appeared in ‘Dahmer’ on Netflix

Side by side photos of Michael Learned as Olivia Walton in The Waltons and Learned in 2022
Michael Learned | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images;Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Michael Learned was acting in a play in San Francisco when she landed the role of Olivia Walton in The Waltons. After leaving the show, she went on to star in CBS series Nurse, for which she won an Emmy. Now 84, she continues to act. In 2022, she appeared as Jeffery Dahmer’s grandmother in Netflix’s Dahmer

Richard Thomas of ‘The Waltons’ recently played the lead in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Richard Thomas as John-Boy in 'The Waltons' and Richard Thomas with his hands in his pockets
Richard Thomas | ​​CBS via Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Richard Thomas shocked fans when he left The Waltons after five seasons on the show. Though he returned for a few guest appearances and reprised his role as John-Boy in several TV movies, he has an extensive list of other TV and movie appearances. They include playing Agent Frank Gaad in The Americans and a starring role in the TV miniseries adaptation of It. Recently, he played Atticus Finch in the touring production of Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Judy Norton shares her ‘Waltons’ memories on YouTube

Black and white photo of Judy Norton of 'The Waltons' next to photo of Norton in a red top
Judy Norton | CBS via Getty Images; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Judy Norton played Mary Ellen Walton throughout the show’s nine-season run. Post-Waltons, she appeared on The Love Boat as well as multiple episodes of the variety show Circus of the Stars. More recently, she teamed up with other child actors for the comedy series The Quarantine Bunch. She also shares her memories of working on The Waltons on her YouTube channel.

Mary McDonough wrote a book that was turned into a Hallmark movie

Black and white photo of Mary McDonough standing on a beach in 'The Waltons' next to photo of McDonough holding her book 'One Year'
Mary McDonough | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images; Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Mary McDonough played Erin Walton on The Waltons. When the show ended, she continued to pursue acting, with roles in the horror movie Mortuary and the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. She also became a published author, writing a memoir and two novels (including one that was turned into a Hallmark Christmas movie), as well as a women’s health advocate.

Kami Cotler works in education

Kami Cotler with pigtails in next to Will Geer in 'The Waltons' next to a photo of Cotler in an orange shirt
Kami Cotler | Bettmann / Contributor; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Kami Cotler was only six years old when she auditioned for The Homecoming, the TV movie whose success led to the creation of The Waltons. She grew up on TV, and when the show ended, she decided to move away from acting. She eventually became a teacher and later the founding principal of Environmental Charter Middle School, she explained in a recent interview with the Herald News of Lincoln & Logan County.

Eric Scott no longer acts

Black and white photo of Eric Scott as Ben Walton in 'The Waltons' next to photo of Scott in a black leather jacket
Eric Scott | CBS via Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Eric Scott played Ben Walton on The Waltons. Like Cotler, he stepped away from acting after CBS canceled the show. He wasn’t interested in constantly hustling for the next gig, he told his Waltons co-star Norton (via YouTube). Instead, he took a job with a delivery company and eventually took over the business. Today, he’s semi-retired with several adult kids.

“Ben did really well,” he told Norton. “Life is good.”

Jon Walmsley is a musician

Jon Walmsley as Jason Walton in 'The Waltons' next to a photo of Walmsley wearing a jacket and tie
Jon Walmsley | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images; Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

Jon Walmsley played Jason Walton on The Waltons. He continues to act occasionally, including appearing in The Waltons reunion movies. But he’s mostly worked as a musician, recording and performing as a guitarist with artists such as Richard Marx, Gregg Allman, and The Doobie Brothers. His solo album, Goin’ to Clarksdale, was released in 2017. He currently lives in his native England with his wife, according to his website.

David W. Harper left show business behind

Black and white photo of David W Harper as Jim-Bob Walton next to photo of Harper holding a book
David W. Harper | CBS via Getty Images; Brian Putnam/FilmMagic

David W. Harper played Jim-Bob Walton on The Waltons. After The Waltons, he appeared in Fletch and the miniseries The Blue and the Gray, as well as the reunion movies. He also worked for his co-star Scott’s delivery company, according to the Daily Mail. However, he’s mostly kept out of the public eye.

These ‘Waltons’ cast members have died

Unfortunately, a number of Waltons cast members have died since the show ended.

Ralph Waite, who played John Walton, continued to act regularly until his death in 2014. One of his last roles was playing Father Matt on Days of Our Lives. 

Ellen Corby, who played Grandma Watlon, died in 1999. While she mostly stepped away from acting after experiencing a stroke in 1976, she did appear in The Waltons reunion movies.

Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, died in 1978 at age 76.

As the creator of The Waltons, Earl Hamner Jr. also narrated episodes of the show. After The Waltons ended, he went on to create the ‘80s primetime soap Falcon Crest. He died in 2016 at 92.

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