CW’s ‘Homecoming’ reboot: ‘The Waltons’ original cast say fans should give it ‘a chance’

Fox News Flash top entertainment headlines for November 23

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The Walton family is back.

The CW is commemorating the 50th anniversary of “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” by airing a new TV film titled “The Waltons’ Homecoming” that premieres on Nov. 28. The 1971 film first introduced “The Waltons” to audiences, leading to a successful series that’s still celebrated today.

Richard Thomas, who starred as the original John-Boy Walton, will serve as the narrator on “Homecoming” in the place of the late Earl Hamner Jr., passing the torch to Logan Shroyer.

“The Waltons’ Homecoming,” which is described as a “wholesome and heart-warming holiday movie that highlights the importance of family and kindness,” also stars Bellamy Young, Ben Lawson and Marcelle LeBlanc.

Set in 1933 Depression Era, times are tough for the Walton family. When Olivia (Bellamy Young) receives a letter that John Sr. (Ben Lawson) is planning to make it home for Christmas, the family is thrilled and prepares for his homecoming. But when a storm threatens his Christmas Eve arrival, and John Sr. is nowhere to be found, Olivia sends John-Boy (Logan Shroyer) out into the night to find his father. Marcelle LeBlanc, Christian Finlayson, Tatum Sue Matthews, Samuel Goergen, Callaway Corrick, Jacinte Blankenship, Alpha Trivette and Rebecca Koon also star with special guest stars Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. From Emmy® Award-winning executive roducer Sam Haskell. ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’ was directed by Lev L. Spiro and written by Jim Strain.
(Tom Griscom/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC.)

Thomas told Fox News that he’s thrilled the beloved series is getting the reboot treatment in time for the holidays.

“My opinion is that ‘The Waltons’ is a 50-year-old classic,” said the 70-year-old. “Classics are eventually adapted, updated, remade and reexamined. I’m just happy that our show is in that category, and I hope the new version finds its audience as ours did in 1971. Good luck to them.”

The original CBS family drama, which focused on the lives of a Virginia mountain family during the ‘30s and ‘40s, aired from 1972 to 1981. It is believed that the network greenlit the series in response to hearings in Congress about the lack of family-friendly programming.

While the show initially didn’t sway audiences, it quickly became the second-highest-rated series in all of primetime by Season 2, Forbes reported. During its nine seasons, it earned 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes and a Peabody Award – just to name a few. Six made-for-television movies were launched after the series ended.

Former cast members from left to right: Kami Cotler,  Richard Thomas, Eric Scott and Judy Norton pose during the screening and reception celebrating ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’ at The Garland on November 13, 2021 in North Hollywood, California. 
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Many of the original cast members told Fox News they fully supported the reboot. They’re hoping it will introduce the family to a new generation of viewers. Ralph Waite, who served as beloved patriarch John Walton Sr., passed away in 2014 at age 85.

“I support anything that puts our fellow actors to work,” said Michael Learned, who starred as matriarch Olivia Walton. “’The Waltons’ is all about family, which is timeless. I was invited to a preview. However, a family emergency kept me from attending.  I love every member of the original cast as if they were my own. Best wishes to the new cast.”

Mary McDonough, who played her daughter Erin Walton, agreed.

“I have’t seen it yet, but I am looking forward to watching,” said the actress/author. ‘I hear lovely things about the new ’Homecoming.’ Looking forward to seeing the new ‘Erin.’ Many Walton fans have asked me for years why there isn’t a show like ‘The Waltons’ to share with their kids. Now there is. I think it’s time for a fresh family show.”

Mary McDonough attends the ‘The Waltons’ 40th anniversary reunion at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on September 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. 
(Photo by Tibrina Hobson/WireImage)

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton, said curious viewers shouldn’t expect a replica of the original show. However, she stressed that the new TV film honors Hamner’s dedication to family. She also noted that the network, along with the new cast, has respected the show’s legacy during filming.

“Think of it like getting a new step-parent,” the actress explained. “They are not meant to replace your parent, but to be another part of your life. Although we appreciate all the love and support our viewers have given to ‘The Waltons’ these past 50 years and hopefully many more years to come – you are welcome to embrace this new rendition – not as a copy – but as something new.”

Actors Michael Learned and Ralph Waite attend the signing of Mary McDonough’s book ‘Lessons From the Mountain: What I Learned From Erin Walton’ at Book Soup on April 16, 2011 in West Hollywood, California. Waite passed away in 2014 at age 85.
(Photo by Brian Putnam/FilmMagic)

The 63-year-old shared that now is the perfect time to revisit a story like “The Waltons.”

“The story of love, family and the support of one another is timeless,” she said. “The show is about the human spirit. The innate kindness and compassion of man when demonstrated at its very best. Something we can all achieve – together.  This show gave me so much, but what I treasure most is the ‘family’ it has given me.”

Kami Cotler, who played young Elizabeth Walton, attended a screening for “Homecoming.” She acknowledged how many fans have expressed hesitation about watching the film in out of fear that CW is attempting to replace “the original family.”

“I don’t think anyone is replacing anything,” she explained. “I think the reboot is honoring the timelessness and beauty of Earl Hamner’s story. Moreover, if people want to see more programs like ‘The Waltons’ on TV today, then I recommend they give The CW’s ‘Homecoming’ a chance. It’s the way to let Hollywood know there is a market for family programming.”

Actor Jon Walmsley performs the 40th Anniversary Reunion Of ‘The Waltons’ at Landmark Loew’s – Jersey City on December 2, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. 
(Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)

“… I’m encouraging people on my Facebook page to be mindful of how they post about the remake,” the now-educator continued. “The producer grew up with ‘The Waltons’ and wanted to bring a warm, holiday movie to the screen. Let’s trust they did the best they could with the resources available. These are nice folks, and there is always a chance the filmmakers or actors – including the children – will read your comments, so please remember to be kind with your words!”

Jon Walmsley, who played Jason Walton, said he isn’t surprised that “The Waltons” would be remade. The accomplished instrumentalist shared he enjoys watching reboots of his favorite classic films.

“I’ve seen all four versions of ‘A Star is Born’ – each is different and they’re all great,” he boasted. “The fact that Earl Hamner’s characters and stories hold up 50 years after they were written is a testament to the quality and timelessness of his writing.”

The 65-year-old said he would even be open to taking on a role if the new TV film led to a sequel or series. Forbes teased that if enough viewers tune in, a regularly scheduled series could be possible, along with guest appearances from some of the original actors.

‘The Waltons’ aired from 1972 until 1981.
(Getty Images      )

“It would depend on the role,” he said. “But I’d love to play a baddie, a character that was the opposite of Jason, my original ‘Waltons’ role.”

The original cast has remained close over the years.

In 2017, 15 former cast members headed to Virginia for a reunion at the Waltons Mountain Museum. The events also coincided with the one-year anniversary of Hamner Jr., the show’s creator. The Schuyler native passed away in 2016 at age 92.

“Amazingly, we’re all still close, which is a rare occurrence in television,” said Walmsley. “Usually, a show ends and everyone goes their separate ways. We see each other periodically at fan events or weddings or funerals, and lately, on Zoom – just like real families. It’s always great to get together for a drink, a hug… and talk about what our kids are doing.”

Cast members from left to right: Ben Lawson, Richard Thomas, Marcelle LeBlanc, Christian Finlayson, Tatum Matthews, Callaway Corrick, Bellamy Young and Logan Shroyer pose during the screening and reception celebrating ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’ at The Garland on November 13, 2021 in North Hollywood, California. 
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Today, he’s eager to see how audiences will react to “Homecoming.”

“I think CW hopes to offer a program that families can watch together,” he said. “In 1971, most families had one television set. Now everyone in the family has their own television, not to mention computers and mobile phones. ‘The Waltons’ provide not only an opportunity for family viewing but hopefully a window into a time when multi-generational families spent a great deal more time together.”

‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’ airs on Sunday, November 28 at 8 p.m. ET on CW. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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