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How Michael Learned Arrived on Walton’s Mountain

Michael Learned - The Waltons

When it comes to working, many of us have had that moment in life where we’ve had to bite the bullet and take a seemingly unappealing job. Doing this is by no means an easy feat, but sometimes it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and take a chance.

In the case of actress Michael Learned, she admitted in a recent interview with Fox News that she didn’t initially have interest starring in “The Waltons.” But, circumstances in Learned’s life forced her to take a chance. 

“Oh, I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t drawn to it at all! I had finished doing ‘Private Lives,’ which Francis Coppola directed, and I played Cleopatra that same season at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. I wasn’t ready to play a 40-year-old farmer’s wife,” said Learned. “I didn’t want to do it. But I was going through a divorce, and I had three kids to support. I wasn’t getting any alimony at that point. And of course in retrospect, it was a gift from God. It saved my life.”

The Waltons

Learned’s role as strong housewife and mother, Olivia Walton, not just provided the actress with a steady acting job, but it also helped her children greatly. Learned notes that the money she earned from “The Waltons” afforded her children the opportunity to attend private school.

Mentioned Learned: “You know, people who are in an hour show, they earn their money. You really don’t have a life. You need to do it when you’re young and save your money.”

In 1979 – two years prior to “The Waltons” concluding – Learned exited the now iconic series after 169 episodes.

“There’s been times when I’ve regretted [leaving the series] only in that it probably would have been better to complete the whole show,” explained Learned. “But frankly, when John-Boy came back with a new face and a new voice, it was like something happened. I just couldn’t do it anymore… and also, I felt a lot of the times I was sitting around for 14 hours saying, ‘More coffee John.’ The fact is I was bored. And I thought I had enough money, which wasn’t true.”

The Waltons

Since her time with “The Waltons,” Learned has appeared in numerous TV series, movies, soap operas and stage productions. Now at the age of 78, she remains focused on doing what makes her happy.

“[Acting is] what I do,” relayed Learned. “When I’m not working professionally, I’m home cleaning the kitchen and that’s so boring. I’ve been doing that since I was 17. I always can’t wait to go to work and get out of the house! What am I going to do? Sit around and clean the refrigerator? That is even more boring than pouring coffee on Walton’s mountain… I try to have fun now. I’m old and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to make me unhappy.”

-Adam Grant

The Waltons

Be sure to watch “The Waltons” weeknights at 5pm ET/2pm PT on VisionTV!

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7 Responses to How Michael Learned Arrived on Walton’s Mountain

  1. Lisa says:

    I still watch The Waltons everyday……but I agree. It wasn’t quite the same when Richard Thomas left….but still one of my favourite ever shows.

  2. James White says:

    Thank you !

  3. ldr 815 says:

    I agree too. After Richard Thomas left, it just wasn’t the same.Richard brought life to John-boy Walton, fresh and new. You know how some actors just seem to be made for a certain part, Richard Thomas was made for the part of John-boy Walton. 🙂

  4. Cyril Ignatius Kendrick says:

    The writing of Earl Hamner is the first reason for the success of the show. The books are a little more earthy than the TV series, but to the credit of the producers, people were given a fairly free reign and so much good came through. Richard Thomas was extraordinary in this series and “The Homecoming” made for TV movie that preceded it. Michael Learned brought great poise, dignity and believability to her role. The fact that she comes from a very different world and wasn’t even considering anything like this only testifies to her great talent as an actress. Together with Ralph Waite, she really made an enormous contribution to the show. There was no way the show would operate near full steam once she departed.

  5. Beverly Dell says:

    I love watching the show with my son people cared more about others back then it will live on forever

  6. Christina Z. Regina SK says:

    My husband bought me the entire series for my birthday in Feb. I think of my Mom every single time the opening music plays..we watched it together when I was a kid. She passed away in 84.
    My husband and I are Christians and watch it together, there is no equal to it for clean values based programming today.
    Such incredible talent in the acting and shooting for 40+ year old productions.

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