It’s been almost four decades since the hit televisions series The Waltons disappeared from our screens, but now veteran actress Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton in the long-running CBS drama series, has lifted the lid on her relationship with her on-screen husband Ralph Waite, revealing the pair “had a deep love for each other” and even once went on a date.
Speaking in an exclusive chat with the Daily Mail, ahead of the fifth anniversary of Waite’s death, Learned revealed: “We had a deep love for each other that we would have ruined if we had taken it that extra step, and we didn’t.
“We never did. We thought about it, but we didn’t.”
The 79-year-old actress told the publication the pair, who were both divorced at the time, even went on a date, but decided they probably shouldn’t pursue a relationship as it could ruin the show.
“There was a period where Ralph and I were both single and we did love each other so we made a date and it was going to happen and we got together and we looked at each other and went, ‘Nah, this will never work’,” Learned said. “Thankfully, we had the good sense to not take it the next step, because I think it would have gotten messy. It might have gotten messy, but our love was very deep and very true.”
The actress said their “instant chemistry” turned into a lifelong friendship and Waite became her “spiritual husband”.
“And I think that’s why we became a spiritual husband and wife if you will, and I miss him terribly,” she admitted. “His wife is a very good friend.”
Learned has been married four times. Her first husband was Canadian-American actor Peter Donat, whom she married in 1956 when she was 17 years old. The pair divorced in 1972, and share three sons together: Caleb, Christopher and Lucas.
Her second marriage, to Glenn Chadwick, lasted from 1975 to 1977 and ended in divorce. In 1979, she married actor-screenwriter William Parker — that marriage ended in divorce as well. Since 1988, she has been married to lawyer John Doherty. The couple live together in California to this day.
The much-loved family drama, which was created by Earl Hammer and based on his book Spencer’s Mountain, ran from 1971 to 1981. It famously followed the lives of the Walton family as they navigated making a living during the Depression. Aside from its beloved characters, the show is famous for its ‘Goodnight John Boy’ closing sequence where each member of the family says goodnight to the each other.