The Waltons star shares fond memories of working with the late actor Ralph Waite
Child star Kami Cotler shares memories of Ralph Waite, best known for playing the big-hearted patriarch John Walton on The Waltons, who passed away in 2014.
Ralph Waite, the big-hearted patriarch John Walton in the series about the 70's depression"The Waltons",died five years ago, on February 13, 2014, at the age of 85 - and a co-star who grew up with him still has vivid memories of the beloved actor.
Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, the youngest member of the TV family, enjoyed child stardom during her time on the show, but has since pursued a very different career as an adult. The 53-year-old mother of two has dedicated her life to education, specifically running charter schools in Los Angeles. And while she's no longer pursuing acting, Cotler still vividly remembers bringing "The Waltons" to life and becoming friends with Waite in the process.
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Ralph Waltie und Michael Learned in „The Waltons“. (Youtube)
Cotler spoke to Fox News about her relationship with Waite, how she feels about The Waltons today, and why she's passionate about her current role.
Fox News:How was working with Ralph Waite?
We Cotlers:I'm the youngest of all the kids on the show, so my perspective comes from being a little kid. Ralph took his job so seriously. You can see in Ralph's performances how he prepared, how he directed - that wasn't a game we played. Something really artistic and serious was going on.
Ralf Waite (Reuters)
Ralph was also very interested in politics, dealing with people and social justice. As a small child, most things pass you by. But I could get an impression. For example, he once pushed hard for the casting because there were certain parts that called for Native Americans. And the production company had no plans to cast Indians. He stood up and said, "No, these are aboriginal parts and it is wrong to cast another person in them."
Fox News:What is one memory of Waite that still lingers in you?
Cotler:his singing. Ralph was a terrible singer. But he always did it with enormous enthusiasm. Acting on a TV show can be pretty boring. There is a lot of sitting around and waiting. And then all of a sudden you have to have all that energy and pretend you're in the middle of a busy family dinner. During rehearsals, Ralph simply broke inEric Claptons"I Shot the Sheriff" which he sang terribly. But it made everyone laugh. He also had some really, really bad jokes. He would tell the same jokes to make everyone laugh. And there was that ridiculous laugh when he did something stupid like that.
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Set in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II, the show follows the Walton family, consisting of John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned), their seven children, and John's parents, Zebulon "Zeb" Tyler (Will Greer). and Esther (Ellen Corby). (Getty)
Fox News:Do you remember the last time you spoke to him?
Cotler:Yes, of course. This didn't last long before he died.Michael [learned]organized dinner for us and we stayed at her house. I hadn't seen Ralph for a long time. He lived down in the desert, so we didn't see him as often as other members of the cast who lived nearby. We all sat around Michael's living room. He went from one to the other, the castmates. He would say to each of us, "How are you? And it wasn't like a casual "Hey, how are you?" It was really intentional and he wanted to make sure that we were all doing well in our lives. That we are happy and situated. And it wasn't until he died that I thought, "He checked in was good." Maybe he knew he wasn't going to be there.
Ralf Waite (Getty)
Fox News:What's one scene from the show that still sticks in your mind?
Cotler:Early on in the show, he dealt with alcoholism and its challenges within his own family. There was a scene between him and me when Elizabeth's raccoon dies. And we're standing at the raccoon's grave and it's pouring like it's raining. Elizabeth asks, "Why do the things you love have to die?" Ralph has a nice answer as John Walton. And as Ralph told the story, he realized, kneeling in the mud and talking to me, that he had a responsibility to raise his children. To be a better father and to protect them while navigating life's challenges. He didn't necessarily think at that moment that he was doing a very good job. So he shared this story about how acting and the fake moment really affected his own choices in his real life with his actual kids.
The Waltons, CBS (1972-1981). (AP)
Fox News:Looking back, how did he feel after The Waltons ended?
Cotler:He said something really interesting about it. I think he said it at a wedding. It was one of our weddings - I don't remember who it was - but he got up and said, normal as an actor, we come together with a group of people, you form an ensemble, you have this very intense personal experience for a weeks, and then you all go your separate ways. And that's the normal part of being an actor. Intense togetherness and then on to the next thing.
And he said he expected what "The Waltons" was going to be like. But he realized he still felt connected as he looked at each of us as we sat in the audience. And that the bonds we created in this fictional family were family-like connections. And that we were basically part of each other's lives, whether we wanted to be or not. And I think just acknowledging how unique our experience was and how lasting it was for each other.
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Kami Cotler today. — Courtesy of Kami Cotler
Fox News:Why does the show continue to resonate with audiences?
Cotler:It represents a side of American life not often represented, namely a large working-class family living in the countryside. You don't see these elements very often on TV. And there were many authors who wrote from personal experience. They wrote about their own upbringing in Kentucky, Tennessee or Virginia. These were people who told their own stories of being part of a struggling family or living in the countryside. The writers definitely had good stories to tell. And I think we were very lucky to have the actors that we had. They are all phenomenally talented and have managed to establish something that has made it easy for all of these kids to do good work with them and achieve.
Fox News:You had the opportunity to meet Natalie Wood. How was she?
Cotler:I knew who Natalie Wood was because my father was in love with herNatalie Wood. She was his darling. We were at an awards show and I just walked right up to her. I was probably 7. And I said, "My daddy's in love with you." I think I gave away cocktail umbrellas that I stole from everyone's glasses and gave them away to people I wanted to meet. She just pulled me onto her lap. I sat and chatted with her until I was ready to move on to the next person.
Natalie Wood in 1979. (Getty)
Fox News:Is it true that you are the principal now?
Cotler:I'm not a principal at the moment. After the show ended, I went to college and got my teaching license. And then I taught for a few years. Then I helped start a charter school in Los Angeles, and that's how I ended up being a principal. And then I opened another middle school in LA where I was principal for four, five years. … We have three charter schools in LA. environmental charter schools. And I support basically all three site managers on whatever comes up. … I'll help troubleshoot whatever exciting new problems might arise.
Fox News:Why education?
Cotler:I think acting was a great job for me as a kid, but then I also had a very unusual situation where I was on the same show for years. … Then I was doubly blessed because I worked with a really nice group of people. I was always interested in everything that happened on set.
I've always wanted to know how things work. And everyone was so kind to let this little girl climb all over their gear and ask 100 questions. So when I went to college, it seemed like education was a really good way to learn more about American culture, to live in different parts of the country, to work with a lot of people, and that way to be busy rather than busy to be TV. And I have to say, opening a charter school is almost like putting on a show!
FAQsDid Ralph Waite and Michael Learned get along on The Waltons? ›
Waite passed away in 2014 at age 85. Learned previously admitted that their on-screen chemistry was the real deal. In 2019, it was reported that Learned and Waite "were in love" off-screen.What happened to Kami Cotler of The Waltons? ›
But, unlike some of her co-stars, Cotler did not continue acting outside of her work with the series. Instead, the now-56-year-old became an educator and has worked as both a teacher and a principal.Who from The Waltons have passed away? ›
Hope Summers (Mother Ida) 1979 age 78 of Heart Failure in Woodland Hills, CA. Dub Taylor (Percy Cook) 1994 at age 87 of Congestive Heart Failure in LA. Delmar Daves, Writer (of the movie script), Director and Producer 1977 at age 73 in LaJolla, CA.Did any of The Waltons date each other? ›
The love stories carried over behind the scenes. Ma and Pa Walton — Ralph Waite and Michael Learned — quietly fell on love on set. And remember Jason and Toni, who we just mentioned in the prior paragraph? Well, actors Jon Walmsley and Lisa Harrison tied the knot in real life in 1979!What did Ralph Waite pass away from? ›