Judy Norton-Taylor will forever be known as Mary Ellen Walton, the oldest daughter to John and Oliva on The Waltons (1972-81), the earnest television series about a Depression-era family in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The family drama was watched by more than 20 million viewers a week.
To millions less, Norton-Taylor is simply the greatest women’s athlete in the history of Battle of the Network Stars (1976-85), the biannual made-for-television special in which stars from the three broadcast networks competed in various sporting events. “A female superstar,” Howard Cosell said.
Norton-Taylor could do it all — and play through pain. Her signature events: the obstacle course and 3-on-3 football. She won the women’s obstacle course in each of her three appearances — beating Kristy McNichol (thanks to a 3-second penalty), Susan Richardson and Randi Oakes — and she holds the all-time record for touchdown catches. Battle IX was her masterpiece, arguably the best individual performance in the show’s history, helping CBS win six events, three with a broken finger. “It was a good weekend,” she said. Battle X was nearly as good: five wins, two with a sprained ankle.
Today, Norton-Taylor is Judy Norton, but she is still a hyphenate — actress-writer-director-producer and singer. Finding Harmony and Another Day in Paradise — two films she wrote and co-starred in — are scheduled for release later this year. Her IMDb page lists five films in pre- and post-production. Still in the development phase: a stage musical based on the life of Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis.
>> The full Q&A / Judy Norton-Taylor