Why Did Ralph Waite Leave The Waltons In Season 9? Issues Over A Tight Budget And Decreasing Ratings

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Ralph Waite was an American actor who worked on more than twenty films and television series (a total of more than forty). He joined an American historical family drama television series in 1972 and left in 1981. He occasionally worked as a director for that series.

Talking about ‘The Waltons,’ some viewers wished to have American families like The Waltons rather than The Simpsons. It was considered the 34th best television series of all time among fifty-nine others in 2013. Previously, it was also awarded a Primetime Emmy for being an Outstanding Drama Series in 1973.

The Waltons television series had nine seasons and six TV film adaptations. Out of them, Waite appeared in the first eight seasons, the eight episodes of the ninth season, and all film sequels.

Thus, combining the television series and the films, The Waltons lasted from 1971 to 1997, and the fans still want to know why their favorite character, John Walton Sr., left the series.

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How Ralph Was Chosen For The Waltons

Ralph Waite did not want to appear for the auditions of The Waltons because getting tied to a long-running TV series was not his cup of tea. However, his agent suggested he work for a few episodes or seasons, get paid for the work, and return to New York.

According to the casting director, Lee Rich, he went through many names until Ralph walked into his office. He asked Ralph to go home and shave his beard, and Ralph did accordingly. The CBS team saw him, and The Waltons got their John Walton Sr.

According to series creator Earl Hamner Jr., it was a matter of matching. Ralph was not perfect for the character. However, the team had already cast Michael Learned as Olivia Walton, and they wanted John Walton Sr. to be around her age. Finally, they found Ralph.

Olivia Walton found his eyes penetrating, which must have contributed to keeping the on-screen Walton family together. Moreover, he connected with the audience watching him on the small screen. His one look could affect people’s emotions.

The Waltons Family
The Waltons Family (Credits: CBS)

Why Did Ralph Waite Leave The Waltons In Season 9?

Ralph got fired over budgetary issues. Ralph’s salary increased with his age, which became a burden for the production team. Moreover, the ratings for the series started declining in his presence.

Ralph was one of the older and more expensive cast members. The production team offered him a contract of only eight episodes from the ninth season. He did not get called for the remaining fourteen episodes.

Audiences thought the producers would finish the series with an eighth season with the existing actors. However, CBS surprisingly introduced the ninth season, decreasing the budget and appealing to more audiences, especially the younger ones.

After Leaving The Waltons

The Waltons Season 9 Episode 8 was an emotional one for two reasons. First, Ralph appeared as John Walton Sr. in the series for the last time (though he reappeared in other reunions of The Waltons). Second, John decided to visit Arizona with Olivia, who was dying of tuberculosis.

Ralph utilized the time off before the ninth season. He traveled across the country but did not know about the further surprises. He got his fans, and people considered him a TV icon. They treated him like a big star.

Ralph never thought of being a part of a classic family show. However, he was proud to spread love through ‘The Waltons,’ irrespective of his role and being a part of an on-screen family that teaches real-life values.

Ralph and Michael tried hard to make the kids feel like a family, and their trials turned fruitful. The series ended, but the actors still felt like a family. Ralph will always be the off-screen Pa Walton for the Walton kids, who still smile when they remember their Pa Walton.

Michael Learned As Olivia Walton And Ralph Waite As John Walton Sr. In The Waltons
Michael Learned As Olivia Walton And Ralph Waite As John Walton Sr. In The Waltons (Credits: CBS)

According to Michael, Ralph was a complicated, dedicated, and kind-hearted man. Their connection was more than just a family bond. She developed strong romantic feelings for him and vice-versa.

However, Michael and Ralph never crossed their lines and kept their bond intact, though they both were single and had an opportunity to take a big step. It is how they kept their romance only for the screen.

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