Why Did "Olivia Walton" Leave 'The Waltons'?
Actress Michael Learned is beloved to this day for her portrayal of the mother "Olivia" on The Waltons. But why was it that she suddenly left the show after season 7? Here's why the star quit and how it was explained on the popular 1970s series.
Fans of The Waltons will remember that family matriarch "Olivia" was with the show for the first seven seasons.
But the beloved "Walton" mother suddenly disappeared in season 8! Thereafter, she only made occasional appearances for the rest of the series. What was the story behind actress Michael Learned leaving the show? And how was it explained on The Waltons?
Why Did "Olivia Walton" Leave The Waltons?
Michael Learned had starred as "Olivia" since The Waltons series debut in 1972. But by the end of season 6, the actress was looking for a way off of the popular show.
The reason? She had begun to find The Waltons repetitive and was unsatisfied with the work. Learned stayed on for a shorter schedule in season 7 and quit before season 8 began airing on TV.
In a 1979 interview after Learned quit, The Washington Post wrote: "She does not love quite so much the entire days spent weeping on cue, or climbing up and down the same flight of stairs, or shredding lettuce."
Learned herself added: "It's stop and start, stop and start. In a scene where there's any real emotion, it's very hard to dredge that up and then be stopped and then wait for half an hour and then dredge it up again."
Decades later, Learned revisited her decision to quit, and provided a bit more insight this time around. "There's been times when I've regretted [leaving] only in that it probably would have been better to complete the whole show," she told Fox News in 2017.
"John-Boy" actor Richard Thomas had also left the series and was actually recast, and Learned added that this change made her feel like she "just couldn't do it anymore."
How The Waltons explained Michael Learned quit the show
On The Waltons, Learned's final episodes were during the family's story in the World War II years. "Olivia" was volunteering at a hospital, and it's eventually revealed she has tuberculosis and must go to a sanatorium.
She leaves the family in season 8 and later departs for treatment in Arizona in season 9. The Waltons ended with season 9, but Learned did appear in several of the film reunions.
Right after The Waltons, Learned performed in stage plays and soon after began to star in The Nurse. In her later career, she also worked on many soap operas, including General Hospital and The Young and the Restless.
Learned is in her 80s today. You can click here to meet her four husbands through the years.