In the 1971 pilot of the TV show, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, Patricia Neal played Olivia Walton. Patricia won a Golden Globe for her performance. Earl Hamner was doubtful of Neal’s ability to commit to the schedule of a weekly TV series because of her health issues.
So, Michael Learned was awarded the role, which, as we know by now, was a very positive thing for the series and Learned’s career.
Ralph Waite Was Fired Because the Network Was Cheap
Originally, the show wasn't supposed to continue on for a ninth season. However, after setting a lower budget, the producers ended up proceeding with the last season. They needed more money, so they did the most logical thing; they let go of the highest-paid actor, Ralph Waite.
So, if you're wondering why Waite was missing… you can blame the network for being cheap!
Ellen Corby Returned After a Stroke
Some actors are so dedicated to their careers that something as serious as a stroke doesn't keep them out of the game for too long. When Grandma Esther, AKA Ellen Corby, had a stroke in 1976, she left the show for two years in order to care for her health.
Her stroke ended up being written into the script. Ellen was afraid that the stroke would impact her acting abilities, but the opposite ended up happening, although her fans expressed doubt at Corby taking up acting again and not prioritizing her health.
Henry Fonda Talked Himself Out Of A Role
Henry Fonda was in "Spencer's Mountain" in 1963, which served as inspiration for " The Waltons." Fonda was potentially going to play the father of the Waltons, and CBS executives thought that he could be a great fit. However, he made a comment which eventually rubbed them the wrong way and ruined his chances of getting cast.
When Fonda watched the pilot show, he said, "What do you want me for? The whole family is the star! You don't need me." So… yeah… not really the thing to say if you're trying to get cast!
A Case of Mistaken Identity
In the time that " The Waltons" aired, it was common for sitcoms to be called by the last name of the family. When you saw a show with the last name, you knew you were about to watch a sitcom. " The Waltons" definitely was by no means a sitcom, so that confused early viewers.
Even so, the show was a big hit with millions of viewers around the country.