In 1961, Earl Hamner Jr. published his book Spencer’s Mountain. Two years later, a film of the same name was produced that adapted his work into a feature-length drama. Flash forward to 1971 when CBS adapted this work once again into their television film The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. Following the film’s success, the network ordered a one-season series based on its characters. This series, The Waltons, premier in September 1972 and shows for another nine seasons before canceling in 1981. NBC airs three film sequels to The Waltons in 1982, and CBS ends up showing three more in the 1990s.
Fans of The Waltons then were left pretty much high and dry. It’s unclear if they will ever get a chance to see any of their favorite characters in action. Maybe it on the big or small screen again. It looks like The Waltons’ time in the sun is finally come to a close. Even so, they sure did have a decent run – so, who’s complaining?
Reboot Of The Waltons
You’ve probably never met anyone who’s pining for a reboot of The Waltons. The CW, yes, because they announce that they will be airing a new remake of the 1971 “Homecoming” film. It is on their network, not once – but twice. The first run will be on Sunday, November 28 at 8 pm. They’ll run it again for all those who miss it on December 11th. The made-for-TV movie films earlier this year in Georgia. The location is at the Gaither Plantation in Covington as well as at a few others nearby.
Join Facts Verse as we take a look at this fresh new remake, as much as an oxymoron as that might sound. We’ll also see what some of the original cast members of The Waltons have to say about this redo.
The Plot In A Nutshell
The storyline of this Holiday remake is fairly simple. We know so far that the film will be set in Depression-era rural Virginia way back in 1933. The characters featured in the film are the members of the struggling Waltons family, Ma, Pa, and their six kids.
The nearby mill near their family home is shut down. Leaving John Walton, portrayed by Ben Lawson, to work in a mill 90 miles away just to feed his family. The film will be focusing on John’s admirable efforts to return home just in time for Christmas. He contends with a looming snowstorm that’s threatening him to thwart his plans.
The new incarnation of the classic television film retains. Those are the spirit and endearing qualities of the original that makes it such a hit. All character conflicts and disagreements are amicably resolved by the conclusion of the film. There are also numerous laughs, lighthearted moments, and Holiday cheer to go around.
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Motivations For Bringing The Waltons Back
Speaking of the pandemic, the film’s executive producer, Sam Haskell, says that no one can anticipate it. What is going to happen to this county as a result of the ongoing crisis? A year ago, amidst the pandemic, Haskell wins an Emmy for his touching Netflix musical holiday special. The Christmas on the Square, starring the legendary Dolly Parton.
Haskell goes on to explain that the COVID-19 pandemic forces people to look inside themselves. Then, to rediscover the true meaning of family. It is that introspectiveness that inspires him to take on this latest Waltons project. Not only to draw in the original fans but to also introduce a new generation of kids and younger viewers. Then, to the wholesome family that many grow up looking to for guidance.
Teenager Haskell In The Waltons
Haskell himself was a teenager when The Waltons premiered on network television. He remembers tuning in on Thursday nights. Rushing to the living room whenever he and his sibling will hear the show’s iconic theme song. He describes the show as a ‘mainstay’ of his life. And he attests that he feels honored that Warner Bros. teamed up with him on this new, nostalgic project.
The film is a major departure from The CW. In recent years gear most of its programming to a younger audience with offerings like The Flash and Riverdale.
Acclaimed director Lev Spiro, best known for his work on shows like Weeds and Arrested Development, was attracted to the ideals of the script, seeing an opportunity to put out something that possessed strong humanistic values.
It is his hope that this film will be able to weasel it’s way into the audience’s subconscious minds so that maybe they can learn that the world could potentially be a better place if we were to treat each other with empathy, tolerance, and respect.
Casting Choices: What Characters Are Returning – And Who Isn’t
Haskell selected two cast members with relatively big names because they were personal friends of his. Bellamy Young, best known for her work on Scandal, will be playing Olivia Walton, while No Strings Attached Star, Ben Lawson, was chosen to play John Walton. Lawson had previously appeared in Haskell’s Netflix offering ‘Dolly Partons: Heartstrings which was also shot in the Atlanta area.
Haskell was impressed by Logan Shroyer’s performance in This Is Us and cast him as the eldest Walton son and aspiring writer John-Boy. Later, he found out by a sheer stroke of luck that Shroyer was, in fact, close friends of Richard Thomas, the actor who originally portrayed John Boy in the 70s series.
Haskell was even able to manage to convince the now 70-year-old Thomas to appear in the new film by serving as narrator – and it wasn’t that hard to work that out either, seeing as how Thomas was already in Atlanta filming Netflix’s Ozark.
The remainder of the cast is largely comprised of actors from the Southeast – many of whom call Atlanta their home. For example, Alpha Trivette, who previously hosted the B98.5 morning radio show, scored the role of Grandpa Walton.
Talking to the press, Trivette said that he had been ‘unconsciously preparing for this role’ for his entire life. He further explained that he had grown up in rural Virginia and that his parent’s grew up during the Great Depression. His grandparents were farmers, and he was a huge fan of The Waltons when he was a kid. Now that he’s a grandparent himself, the role has even more meaning behind it.
Christian Finlayson In The Watsons
Christian Finlayson, an actor from Atlanta, plays the second eldest Walton son and aspiring musician, Jason. And according to him, the comradeship that audiences see onscreen is the real deal. Finlayson says that during the couple of weeks that the film was in production, the cast and crew grew to be a real family, so it wasn’t that difficult to bring that to the table when the cameras were rolling.
Finlayson did, however, admit that he wasn’t that familiar with the series prior to landing the role. His only previous exposure to The Waltons was hearing a joke on Family Guy that referenced the line ‘Goodnight John Boy’. After attending the audition that inevitably scored him the role, he finally understood what that was all about.
In the original book that The Waltons was based on, there were eight children, but when the novel was adapted into a television show, it was reduced down to seven. In addition to Shroyer, Young, and Finlayson in their respective roles in the new Homecoming film, Marcelle LeBlanc will play Mary Ellen, Samuel Georgen will portray Jim Bob, Callaway Corrick will play Elizabeth, and Michael Kendall Kaplan will play Toby. But one child that is notably missing from the line-up is little Ben Walton.
Haskell explained that he chose to nix Ben because he didn’t want to have to bring in another actor just to deliver mundane lines of dialogue asking about when his father is coming home or something of that nature. The decision to reduce the number of children down to six was a difficult one, but Haskell felt little need to keep all seven just for the sake of being 100% faithful to the original.
Budget and Time Constraints Necessitated Some Cuts
Not only will little Ben Walton be absent from the new Homecoming remake, but Haskell says that the ending of the movie will be somewhat altered from the original. In the original film, Olivia’s friend was played by R&B singer Marilyn McCoo. She portrayed a preacher’s wife at a black church where the Waltons ultimately spent their Christmas in the 1971 film. The events leading up to this celebration will be different in the new film.
It’s still very important for Haskell, however, for both black and white churchgoers to be present in the film’s triumphant final scenes. The original film had a scene where Olivia explained to her youngest daughter why churches are segregated, but in the new film, a line is added that emphasized that all people, regardless of their skin color, are welcome in God’s House. Haskell feels like the new line is much better than the original dialogue in this powerful scene.
Filming In Summer Presented Unique Obstacles
The entire film is set during Christmas time with snow blanketing every locale, but in reality, the filming took place this past summer in Atlanta when high temps were in the 80s and 90s. Spiro and Haskell had to constantly remind the cast to employ proper body language to account for the cold, such as hunching their bodies and shivering.
Finlayson mentioned that the actors had to don thick wool coats and that this was particularly uncomfortable considering how hot they were, but he recalled a scene that he did with John Boy when the two boys got into a snowball fight where he rubbed the snow in his face. Finlayson said that that particular scene was actually pretty refreshing.
Haskell Five Films
Haskell has now filmed five films set in winter – all of which were shot during Georgia’s summer months. These films include 2015s Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors and it’s follow-up 2016 film ‘Christmas of Many Colors. To succeed at convincing the viewing audience that these films are actually set in winter, his crew has artfully deployed snow mats, mashed potato flakes, paper shavings, and shaved ice – as well as CGI – to make the film look convincing.
To prevent the actors from developing heatstroke, he had them wear specially designed bodysuits that made use of ice pack inserts underneath their winter coats.
It’s Haskell’s hope that if this new film is well-received that it just might inspire a new series to be greenlit. If all goes well, a whole new generation of viewers will be introduced to The Waltons and will get to enjoy this iconic family and their lighthearted exploits for many years to come.
Where you a fan of the original Waltons television show? And are you looking forward to this Christmas-themed Reboot? Let us know in the comments section below.
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