Families around the U.S. closed out their Thanksgiving weekend with the Waltons. The Waltons’ Homecoming aired Nov. 28 on The CW, introducing a new cast as the famous Depression era family. The story had the Waltons waiting for John Sr. (Ben Lawson) to return home from work for Christmas. When he was delayed, the family prayed for his safety. Executive producer Sam Haskell said faith was always going to be an integral part of the Waltons.
Haskell was on a Zoom panel with his Waltons’ Homecoming cast, including original John Boy Richard Thomas, who introduces and narrates the film. Here’s why it was important to both Haskell and Thomas that The Waltons’ Homecoming focused on faith. The movie is now streaming on The CW.
The CW approved of including faith in ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming’
The CW isn’t normally the network you think of when it comes to faith. The Riverdale kids and DC superheroes don’t spend too much time in church. But when it came to The Waltons’ Homecoming, the network supported Haskell’s vision.
“I will tell you that my initial conversations with Mark Pedowitz, the chairman of The CW, I told him there was going to be a faith element in this and he embraced it completely,” Haskell said. “He feels, as I do, that putting faith and family and hope and joy front and center is something that this world needs right now. And I believe that The Waltons’ Homecoming is going to bring that to families. He and I both know that families watching something together is very rare these days. And this is the kind of program that can bring an entire family together.”
Richard Thomas remembers the legacy of faith
Thomas played John Boy Walton from 1971 – 1978 and returned for TV movies through the ‘90s. Portraying the family based on Earl Hamner Jr.’s autobiographical book Spencer’s Mountain, Thomas said faith was a central part of many of their storylines.
“The faith element was just, well, you can’t really tell a story about people in that part of America in 1933 without a faith element,” Thomas said. “That was a huge part of people’s lives and it still is around the country. But just dramaturgically speaking, to have the church and we had many stories where faith and how people acted their faith out, where their prejudices were, where the benefits were. You know, John had one point of view about going to church, which he didn’t do. Olivia had another. Grandpa was a pantheist basically. It was such a big part of our storytelling and everyone had a different connection to it. So I think it’s completely valid.”
Bellamy Young embraced the faith in ‘The Waltons’ Homecoming,’ too
Olivia Walton (Bellamy Young) has a conversation with her daughter, Elizabeth (Callaway Corrick), about their church in The Waltons’ Homecoming. Young said the inclusion of faith was one of the appeals in taking the role.
“I just thought it was such a lovely chance to be inclusive,” Young said. “You know, we come out of COVID and we’ve all been in a world for the last few years that was quite a distant [one]. We were in solitude. And so getting to tell a story that was about family, that was kind, that was gentle. First of all, it felt like the balm that we all needed after this time of sort of like desperate solitude. But also getting to say out that everyone is welcome in God’s house. What a privilege to just say the notion, to just literally say the words, is the best Christmas gift ever, really and truly.”