‘The Waltons’ Star Mary Beth McDonough Felt ‘Humiliated and Devastated’ by Brat Pack Actor
Mary Beth McDonough is perhaps best known for her role as Erin in The Waltons. The family show arrived on television a few years before Little House on the Prairie and chronicled life during the Great Depression as told by John-Boy.
Since the show ended decades ago, McDonough’s worked as a writer, producer, and director. But during her years growing up in the spotlight, she had a few unfriendly encounters in Hollywood, including one with a famous “Brat Pack” actor.
McDonough became a star because of ‘The Waltons’
The Waltons ran from 1972 to 1981 and was one of the most popular shows on TV. McDonough wrote about her time on the show in her memoir, Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton, and shared warm memories about her on-screen family.
McDonough was about 11 when she began the series and practically grew up in front of the audience’s eyes. Though she had glowing things to say about her castmates and all the things she learned while working on The Waltons, she admitted to struggling with her confidence.
McDonough had an exchange with actor Judd Nelson
In the ’80s, Baywatch’s Alexandra Paul co-founded a non-profit group called Young Artists United which was made up of entertainment professionals. The group focused on youth campaigns that encouraged voting, safety, and smart choices.
The organization included stars such as Rob Lowe, Sarah Jessica Parker, Heather Locklear, Judd Nelson, Anne Marie Johnson, and Eric Stoltz. McDonough came aboard and joined the board of directors and was put in charge of their speakers’ bureau.
It was her first time in such a position, and she recalled how many lessons she learned about communication and speaking up. In her book, McDonough shared an incident involving Nelson.
She explained Rob Lowe was caught up in a sex tape scandal right before a PSA with him in it was due to be released. The YAU had to reshoot it and Nelson suggested his other Brat Pack friends — Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez — for the video.
McDonough questioned the choice and asked, “Could we choose other actors who are leading responsible lives or don’t drink, so we don’t have to scrap the PSA if they get arrested or —?”
Nelson shot back and asked if she thought she could do it, and McDonough stumbled her words while saying no. Nelson said, “Well, you can’t. You don’t work enough as an actress to matter. People will listen to Emilio and Charlie.” He noted they were “in the public eye.”
McDonough wrote that she shut down and was “humiliated and devastated. I was the wicked witch melting into the floor.”
Sarah Jessica Parker helped break the tension
Although the room grew quiet in shock in that moment, things eased up later that evening. McDonough remembered going out with the girls of YAU and Parker asked where she wanted to go out to eat. “I don’t think I work enough as an actress to pick the restaurant,” McDonough quipped.
That prompted Parker to jump in say, “I can’t believe he said that!” All the others in the room shared how stunned and horrified they were by the remark and were able to laugh about it. But McDonough acknowledged how they helped her learn to let things roll off her back.