For ten years, John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned) Walton honored fans on the TV show The Waltons as Pa and Ma of the Walton clan on television. Their chemistry revealed an almost perfect marriage with parenting skills that so many families would be happy to see. Of course their acting skills had a lot to do with the draw, but was there more in the actors ’relationship in real life than fans ever knew?
Life before ‘The Waltons’
After graduating from Bucknell University, Waite tried a few different careers from social work to become a Presbyterian minister. At the age of 30, he decided to study acting. He made his theatrical debut in New York, where he made his way to Broadway in the early 1960s, according to IMDb. After moving to the west coast, he began starring small parts in big name films such as Luke Hand cool and Five easy pieces.
Waite was unwilling to go to trials for the part of John Walton, Sr. as he did not want to be associated with a television series. With a sigh of relief from his agent, who told him he felt the show would not sell at all, Waite interviewed and got him the job if he would be a part for nine seasons, according to Wide open country.
Learned was born in Washington DC and lived on a farm in Connecticut until her family moved to Austria when she was 11. She went to boarding school in England where she realized she wanted to be the actor, according to IMDb. She met and married her first husband, actress Peter Donat, at the age of 17. She appeared at the Shakespeare Festivals in Canada and the USA, raising a family. At the time she was cast as Olivia for the new TV series, The Waltons, she was almost unknown to U.S. audiences.
The years during ‘The Waltons’
Based on the book, “Spencer’s Mountain” by Earl Hamner, the television series followed the story of his father trying to make a living and feed his family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression in the early 1930s through to the Second World War I in the ’40s. John, Sr., has seven living children. and Olivia, John-Boy (Richard Thomas), Jason (Jon Walmsley), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton Taylor), Erin (Mary Elizabeth McDonough), Benjamin (Eric Scott), James Robert “Jim Bob” (David W. Harper) , and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler), in memory of two others, who died at birth. John’s parents, Zebulon “Zeb” (Will Geer) and Esther Walton (Ellen Corby), still live in the family home where John grew up on Mount Walton.
The TV show quickly became a classic show, capturing an audience of young and old alike. It remains one of the best television shows ever, with reruns still being broadcast, today. From the year the show began in the ’70s, The Waltons it has won several nominations and awards, including Emmys, Golden Globes, and People’s Choice Awards. Learned won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 1973, 1974, and 1976. The show won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Drama Television Program in 1975 and 1976.
Waite and Learned real relationship
It was not until recently that Learned confessed to being in love with Waite from an early age. More than 35 years after the show ended, Learned opened up about their relationship, according to the DailyMail. She said they were “in love” away from the screen, but instead of turning it into a “fake” romance, they became very deep lifelong friends.
In her 2019 interview, five years after Waite’s death, Learned said, “’We loved each other so much that we would have been devastated if we had taken that extra step, and did not sinn sin. We never did. We thought about it, but we didn’t. And I think that’s why we became a spiritual man and woman if you will, and I really miss him. ”
Learned went through a divorce in 1972. Waite had been divorcing since 1966. “There was a time when Ralph and I were single and we loved each other so we made a date and it was going to be ‘happened and we came together and we looked at each other and he went,’ Nah, this will never work, ‘”Learned said. “Fortunately, it made good sense not to take it the next step, because I think it would have been deceptive. He may have received a bad message, but our love was deep and true. ”
Both Waite and Learned had slavery problems. Waite learned credits to help her stop drinking. Each went on to be married twice more. Her third husband, John Doherty, whom she married in 1988, is remnants. At the time of his death, Waite was married to his third wife, Linda West, whom he married in 1982.
Learned and Waite remained good friends until Waite’s death in 2014 at the age of 85. Each had gone on to other acting shows, taught in guest roles on several television programs. Waite went on to play other father figures, the last of whom as Jackson Gibbs, father NCIS ‘s Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). The show honored him with a program about Gibbs ’high death in 2014.