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 it’s characters. This series, The Waltons, premiered in September 1972 and went on to air for another nine seasons before getting canceled in 1981. NBC subsequently aired three television film sequels to The Waltons in 1982, and CBS ended up putting out three more in the 1990s.
Fans of The Waltons then were left pretty much high and dry. It was unclear if they would ever get a chance to see any of their favorite characters in action, be it on the big or small screen again. It sure looked like The Waltons time in the sun had finally come to a close – but even so, they sure did have a decent run – so, who’s complaining?
Well, even though you’ve probably never actually met anyone who has been pining for a reboot of The Waltons, the CW apparently has, because they just announced that they will be airing a new remake of the 1971 “Homecoming” film on their network, not once – but twice. The first run will be on Sunday, November 28 at 8pm, and they’ll run it again for all those who missed it on December 11th. The made-for-TV movie was filmed earlier this year in Georgia, primarily at the Gaither Plantation in Covington as well as at a few other nearby locations.
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, consisting of ma, pa, and their six kids.
The nearby mill near their family home was shut down, leaving John Walton, portrayed by Ben Lawson, to have to work in a mill some 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 as he contends with a looming snowstorm that threatens to thwart his plans.
The new incarnation of the classic television film retains much of the spirit and endearing qualities of the original that made 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.
Enjoying this video so far? Then give it a like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more videos covering some of your favorite classic television shows and the actors that made them so memorable.
Motivations For Bringing The Waltons Back
Speaking of the pandemic, the film’s executive producer, Sam Haskell, noted that no one could have anticipated what was going to happen to this county as a result of the ongoing crisis. A year ago, amidst the pandemic, Haskell won an Emmy for his touching Netflix musical holiday special, Christmas on the Square, which starred the legendary Dolly Parton.
Haskell went on to explain that the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to look inside themselves and rediscover the true meaning of family. It was that introspectiveness that inspired him to take on this latest Waltons project to not only draw in the original fans of the series who are now parents and grandparents of their own but to also introduce a whole new generation of kids and younger viewers to the wholesome family that many grew up looking to for guidance.
Haskell himself was a teenager when The Waltons premiered on network television. He fondly remembers tuning in on Thursday nights – rushing to the living room whenever he and his sibling would hear the show’s iconic theme song. He describes the show as a ‘mainstay’ of his life, and thus he attests that he feels incredibly honored that Warner Bros. Has teamed up with him to take on this new, nostalgic project.
The film is a major departure for The CW, which has in recent years geared most of it’s 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. Haskell later 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, 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 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.
And before you go, make sure you take a moment to show us a little support by giving this video a like and by subscribing to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. While you’re at it, tap the bell to turn on notifications. That way, you can keep up with all of our latest and upcoming videos without missing a beat.
And as always, thanks for watching! We’ll see you soon with more videos covering some of your favorite Hollywood actors, films, and television series.