WALTONS Star Mary McDonough Says Novel Is ‘Influenced’ by Show’s Family Theme

Photo from Mary McDonough’s Instagram

WALTONS Star Mary McDonough Says Novel Is ‘Influenced’ by Show’s Family Theme

By Movieguide® Contributor

Mary McDonough was once a member of one of television’s most famous families — The Waltons. So, when it came time to write her first book, it’s no surprise she decided to explore the theme of family. 

McDonough was just 10 years old when she began playing Erin on THE WALTONS.

Her first book, One Year, tells the story of three generations of women in an Irish-American family, and McDonough shared that THE WALTONS definitely influenced the novel. 

“It’s very much along THE WALTONS theme,” she said. “I think I was really influenced by [creator] Earl Hamner Jr. and the show, because it tends to be what I like to write about. One Year is about people losing their parents, and I have lost both of mine.”

THE WALTONS left a lasting impact on McDonough’s life, especially the people around her.

The former actress also revealed what her relationship with her WALTONS castmates is like these days. 

“We are all incredibly close and still connected, and we’re all Facebook friends,” McDonough shared. “We all know each other and our kids, and we’ve celebrated bat mitzvahs, weddings and divorces, and, unfortunately, some deaths, and we’re all very, very connected through it all. It really is a family. I think that is part of my thing, family is really what you make it.”

McDonough isn’t the only WALTONS cast member who looks back on her time on the show fondly.

Movieguide® previously reported:

THE WALTONS star Michael Learned recently opened up about her time on the show, as well as her “deep” love for co-star Ralph Waite.

THE WALTONS premiered in 1972 and ran for nine seasons, in addition to six TV movies and a 2021 reboot movie. 

Learned and Waite played the matriarch and patriarch of the Walton clan in the original show. 

The actress, who describes the cast as her “second family,” spoke of her love for her TV family. 

“We spent more time together shooting the show than we did with our own families,” she joked. “So of course, we became close. I love them.”

She was especially close to Waite, her onscreen husband. 

“I loved him very much,” Learned said. “And we loved each other as much as anybody could love anybody…our love was so deep and spiritual. And you know, Ralph would put me in my place…He didn’t make any bones about telling me to shape up. And it was the same with me.”

She continued, “I just couldn’t bear it whenever we had a disagreement. If we weren’t getting along, I couldn’t stand it. I remember once we had a spat about some stupid thing. I just had to go knock on his dressing room door. I was crying. Just in tears. I told him, ‘We have to make up because I can’t shoot this scene if we’re still mad at each other.’ And of course, he would just open his arms up and hug me.”

“We were truly family, with all the ups and downs that come with it, except there was no prior baggage,” the actress concluded. 

Learned also spoke about the deep impact THE WALTONS had on its audience. 

“When I look back, I think about the people who watched the show, those who were also going through financial hardships,” Learned explained. “Those who had unhappy childhoods. They tuned in because it made them feel good. And when we started, none of us thought we would stick around. We used to joke that we were just going to be around for a week or two.”

She continued, “It makes [the cast] feel good that the show continues to hit home. So many people come up to me, even today, and say, ‘Watching THE WALTONS was the only time I felt safe for an hour.’ Others tell me it reminds them of their childhoods when life was sweeter and more innocent. We’re proud of our work.”