The Waltons kept Judy Norton busy as a teenager, and she used it to her advantage

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton on The Waltons, enjoyed her role because it brought her a sense of family and… because it got her out of attending school. And for an actress who was just a teenager at the time, that’s a pretty big deal.

Norton was only 13 years old when The Waltons premiered in 1972. By the time the series ended, she had all the experience she needed as a young adult.

In a 1974 interview with The Times, Norton, a teenager then, talked about school. Well, her dislike of school to be exact.

“It’s not that I have anything against school,” she started. “I just don’t approve of the system. It’s, well, kind of silly. Like there are times when they won’t let you on campus and other times when you need to leave, and they won’t let you off. Know what I mean?”

Norton did have a point. After being in over 200 episodes of The Waltons during its nine seasons, she had a lot of experience.

“I mean, I’m learning more than I could from any acting teacher just by working,” she said. “Besides that, I’ve actually had more experience than most teachers I’d have. What could they tell me that I haven’t experienced already?”

Most of Norton’s education at the time of this interview had been in a trailer on whatever set she was working on, including The Waltons. Independence seemed to be Norton’s way of life as a young teen.

Another part of her need for independence was buying her first car, a topic that she got really excited about in a 1974 interview with The Columbia Record.

“It’s hard in this business if you can’t drive yourself,” she said. “I can hardly wait until I am old enough to have a license. I dream of a little sports car. To be able to go where you want anytime. Imagine that!”

No matter what wheels Norton ended up with, we are sure she put some miles on them.

While Norton worked towards saving for a new car, she kept attending school, while fighting the system, of course. According to the interview, being a young actress didn’t always mean instant popularity.

“The show isn’t geared to my age group out here,” she said. “A lot of kids think the series is too corny. I have a feeling some of the [people] are jealous. They would really like to be a part of a loving family like the Waltons, something they’ve missed along the way.”

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