The Waltons provided a lot of good stories thanks to creator Earl Hamner Jr.’s efforts and there was a stellar cast as well. It made stars out of Ralph Waite, Michael Learned, Richard Thomas, Judy Norton, and many others.
Add Will Geer and Ellen Corby to the mix and you have a lot of acting experience in the cast. But the original run of The Waltons ended close to 40 years ago.
So, what’s happened to the cast since then? Let’s take a look.
Ralph Waite played Jobn Walton. Before The Waltons, Waite made a name for himself in movies. He appeared on Broadway in 1960 in Marathon ’33. Then, Waite moved along to appear in Cool Hand Luke, Five Easy Pieces, Trouble Man, Chato’s Land, and The Stone Killer. He also directed some episodes of The Waltons, too. Later on in television, Waite played the father of Gibbs in NCIS. He also appeared in the movie The Bodyguard opposite Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Waite died in 2014 at 85 years old.
Michael Learned appeared as Olivia Walton. She started out being on stage and the small screen, too. But it wasn’t until Learned joined The Waltons that she received accolades. Learned left the show after six seasons, taking her three Primetime Emmy Awards with her. Later on, she appeared in the show Nurses. which ran for 25 episodes. Learned’s most recent work was in 2021. She played Jeffrey Dahmer’s grandmother in Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Richard Thomas played John-Boy Walton. Before his time on the show, Thomas had appeared on TV as a child actor. He also worked in theater before joining the cast of The Waltons. Thomas picked up one Primetime Emmy Award for his work. Thomas was only on for the show’s first six seasons. He’s moved along in his career, appearing again on TV and in the theater. His most recent movie work was in The Unforgivable for Netflix in 2021.
Will Geer played Zebulon “Grandpa” Walton. Geer’s character was one filled with wisdom and humor on the show. The same could be said about Geer the person, too. Before starting his acting career, reportedly Geer wanted to be a botanist. That didn’t work out as he turned to acting. He was blacklisted in the 1950s. Geer went out touring with Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives. Geer died in 1978 at 76 years old.
Ellen Corby played “Grandma” Esther Walton. Corby won three Primetime Emmys for her work on The Waltons. But her career dates back to the 1920s, when she was a script assistant. Corby also picked up work here and there. She made incredible character appearances on The Andy Griffith Show, The Addams Family, and Batman. Her Waltons character was full of life and carried on with Zeb a lot. After Corby suffered her stroke, she came back to The Waltons to work. Corby died in 1999 at 87 years old.
Jon Walmsley played Jason Walton. Walmsley, who now lives in Europe, hit it big in 1969 when he provided the voice for Christopher Robin in a Winnie the Pooh cartoon. He joined The Waltons for the series and a few reunion movies. But his first love has been music and he’s played with some big names like Brian Setzer, the Doobie Brothers, and Merle Haggard.
Mary Beth McDonough
Mary Beth McDonough portrayed Erin Walton. McDonough appeared in all of the series’ shows and every reunion movie made. Erin was love-smitten a lot on the show. McDonough also popped on some feature films. She had a recurring character on the Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. McDonough also has a career as an author.
Kami Cotler played Elizabeth Walton. Before The Waltons, Cotler appeared in a short-lived sitcom titled Me and the Chimp starring That Girl star Ted Bessell. She appeared in The Homecoming movie, all of the series’ shows, and the reunion movies, too. After The Waltons ended, Cotler turned her attention to education. Currently, she teaches in schools in California.
Eric Scott played Ben Walton. Much like Cotler, Scott appeared in all of the series’ shows and the six post-series movies. These days, you will not find Scot playing an actor at all. He currently manages Chase Messengers, which is a parcel delivery service. Scott is married to his third wife, Cynthia Wolfen. He has two children, one from a previous marriage and one with Wolfen.
David W. Harper
David W. Harper played Jim Bob Walton. Harper first appeared as Jim Bob in The Homecoming and kept on playing him in the TV series. He did appear in some of the post-series movies, too. Today, Harper reportedly lives a quiet life out of the spotlight of Hollywood. He’s not acting in any current project.
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