The problem with growing up on TV is that the person you grow up as is not necessarily who you are. Judy Norton-Taylor, for instance, grew up as Mary Ellen Walton on the long running television series The Waltons, Mary Ellen was one of the sweetest, humblest and noblest people you'd ever hope to meet, Judy, on the other hand is a lot more fun.
It's not that she doesn't share many of the qualities of her former television character, she does. But there's an edge to Judy that Mary Ellen couldn't even imagine. While her TV character may have been content to sit and knead bread for most of the day, such a waste of good daylight would drive Judy out of her mind.
That wasn't an image I was too comfortable with. It was too ... boring. It wasn't what my life was and it wasn't what I wanted it to be. But I resent that character only when it limits people's assessment of me. Even when it was the main thing in my life, it still wasn't the only thing. There was another whole person who went home between shots."
Understandably, the development of that other person in the shadow of the overwhelming TV image wasn't easy, but Judy is a child-star survivor. She's tough, she's bright and intense. When she's interested in something, her entire being is focused on it; when she's bored, she makes a quick exit.
Seven years of ballet training have given Judy a powerful grace that she uses in her pursuit of sports and the adrenaline rush they provide. She's given to such knife-edge past times as equestrian jumping, trapeze acrobatics, skiing and sky diving. When you consider that most of these are not sports you try out but sports you do - or get killed doing - you get some idea of her mindset.
I've done a lot of things that would probably be considered dangerous. But I go about them very slowly and carefully. I didn't go out there and do trapeze stunts without a belt on. I stayed in the belt until everybody agreed I was ready. In the same way I wouldn't jump a fence that I didn't think I, or my horse was ready for.
"It's a challenge that I like. Of course, there is that element of fear in most of what I do too. Despite the
fact that i feel confident - well pretty confident - about what I'm doing, there's still a chance that something could go wrong. And then there's always that urge to push it a little but more. Like, with skiing. As i get better, I try harder hills or skiing a little faster.
"I'm sort of a dilettante, playing at everything. I like to be busy, but I hate being mediocre at anything, so I've got to choose: Either I'm going to give up some things and concentrate on what I really want to do."
Unfortunately, what Judy really wants to do is everything. She's contantly hunting for new experiences, new people, new roles to play. Somewhere behind her are two marriages, Adventure doesn't come cheap, but you do learn a lot about your self along the way.
|"To me, life is like a game and my whole attitude is geared to what I enjoy - because if I'm not going to enjoy being here and living this life, then what's the point? If there's no excitement, nothing to look forward to, nothing to achieve, then I don't want to be here"
"I need a constant challenge. One of the problems that I rush into in a relationship is mental parity. I want someone who's active, because I'm so active, I want someone i can go out and do things with - someone who's creative.
But there's also the personal side. You can't rub each other the wrong way too often. Everyone has pet peeves. But my theory is that in a working relationship, the flaws one person has can't be those that drive the other person crazy.
"Men have told me that they find me very intimidating. I've has guys say, 'I don't think I could deal with your lifestyle. I don't think I could keep up with you.' I think that in order for a man to deal with me, he's got to be very secure."
Acting remains to be the central love of Judy's life, but in the four years since she left The Waltons, she has put it on the back burner in favor of sports, taking only selected roles, mostly in the theater.
"For me, acting is an opportunity to live other lives. For instance, in my personal life, I'm very even-tempered; I never blow, no matter how angry I get. I always think in terms of compromise and diplomacy. When I'm acting, I can be a real bitch or very sarcastic . . . that sort of thing. It's fun to allow those sides of you, those emotions, out while you're creating a fantasy.
"If I did that in real life, it wouldn't even be satisfying, because I'd just have to pay the price - go back and clean up, repair the damage. So acting, in effect, let's me play."
Playing on the stage is a new experience for Judy, who's flexing different creative muscles from those she used on television. She's also discovering the magic of live performance.
"One reason I enjoy theater more, in a way, than television is the audience. There's that feeling of creating something that holds the attention of people. It's a form of control, a form of power, because you are, for that given amount of time, taking these people on a little trip with you. And if you are good, you hold their interest; you make them believe and care and laugh and cry with you. Then, if it all works, there's a great sense of accomplishment. You did it!"