Judy Norton - who portrayed Mary Ellen Walton on the Emmy award-winning TV series for nine years - will present a Hannibal Concert Association concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Roland Fine Arts Center at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
During a telephone interview, Norton explained her Hannibal concert will feature songs from the Great American Songbook, including “standards from the ‘30s, ‘40s and from Broadway.”
She will return to Missouri to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield on May 26 and 27.
In addition to acting and singing, Norton is currently writing movie scripts and directing. “My first film script that I wrote was produced last summer,” she said.
This is “Finding Harmony,” starring Billy Zane and Alison Eastwood. “It will be released sometime later in 2013 in movie theaters. This is a film about three generations of a family who, through tragedy, have to face the mistakes of their past in order to find a way to move forward.”
Norton is now working on a TV series in Canada, “Bluff,” which she described as “a female-driven detective show that delves into the personal and working lives of the characters. Besides being a series regular on this show, I am also one of the writers and directors. It is currently mid-filming for season 1 and we will have information soon on where people can tune it to watch it. ... I’m starting to really enjoy the writing and directing. I hope some of the projects in the next few years will be things people will enjoy and remember.”
A lifelong actress, Norton began doing children’s theater in Los Angeles at about age 6. Some TV roles were a lot of fun, such as “Felony Squad” when she was 9, and “The Thin Man.”
At age 13, began role
as Mary Ellen Walton
She became Mary Ellen Walton at age 13 when the Waltons TV show began its nine-year run from 1971 and 1981. “I’m so proud that I was able to be a part of that,” she said.
The “family” continued to perform together, she added. “We had the homecoming, and after the series ended, did three TV movies, and over the next few years did more reunion movies.”
The Waltons’ cast members “were like my second family,” Norton said. “We had wonderful times together. There were pranks and practical jokes. Ralph Waite, who played our father, would get everybody laughing. We had good times away from the work as well. We did a lot of publicity together.
“One season Erin - Mary McDonough - and I took a cruise together,” Norton said. “We decided we were going to lay low and have a personal vacation.” But this was not meant to be. “At some point partway through the cruise, we got recognized. We had not told them who we were - we thought people would think we were trying to be important.”
Page 2 of 2 - Norton did not sing on the Waltons show, except with the family around the piano, but she began studying voice during those years.
Her own family includes a son who is nearly 17 years old and two adult stepchildren. “While I was raising my son, I wanted to stay home and be there as a parent, and it curtailed my travels,” she said. “I spent the majority of my time being a mom. I found out being a mom on TV was a lot easier than in real life.”
After she began her professional singing career, Norton starred in “Hello Dolly” in Texas, “The Sound of Music” in Palm Springs, “Annie Get Your Gun” in Texas and “Cinderella” in Pittsburgh.
She reported that “Annie Get Your Gun” was a favorite, because “I always enjoyed being a tomboy. I was in sports through the years. And ‘Cinderella’ was fun because I got to dress up.”
In the 1990s, while living in Canada for 10 years, she worked with a theater company in Vancouver, where she became involved in writing and directing as well as acting and singing. “The producers were in need of scripts,” she said. “Then I found I enjoyed it and kept getting asked to write things and it grew from there.”
Her Waltons’ background was helpful in writing, she added. “Starting as an actor, I was very fortunate to have great writers on the Waltons, and I knew what good writing was and understood developing a character, so it felt like a pretty natural progression.”
Later she returned to Los Angeles, where she is continuing to enjoy all phases of her career. “I tend to love whatever I do at the time,” she said. “That is why I do what I do, because I enjoy it so much.”