Why Did Ralph Waite Leave 'The Waltons'?

Some TV shows will forever be classic. Fans of the show that ran for 10 years want to know: Why did Ralph Waite leave 'The Waltons'?

Devan McGuinness - Author

Oct. 20 2020, Updated 10:59 p.m. ET

why did ralph waite leave the waltons
Source: CBS

There are some television shows that have been off the air for a long time. Even so, the love for the show is still strong today, and both fans of the original airing and those catching them on reruns are drawn to the wholesome storyline.

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One of the best characters of The Waltons was John Walton, Sr., played by Ralph Waite. The actor started with the show back in 1972, but why did Ralph Waite leave The Waltons? People still want to know to this day. 

Why did Ralph Waite leave 'The Waltons'?

There hasn't been a full explanation on why Ralph Waite left The Waltons, just short of the ending of the show. Ralph was in nearly every episode of the popular CBS show from 1971 through the final season in 1981, however he was missing from several in that last season.

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According to IMDb, Ralph was in all episodes of The Waltons from Season 1 through Season 8. However, in the final season, the ninth one, Ralph was only involved in eight episodes of the 22 in total. Given he was a main character and had been on since its beginning, people were curious as to why he left.

ralph waite the waltons
Source: CBS
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According to IMDb, it call came down to budgetary reasons — and wanting a shift in the audience of the show. "Ralph Waite was fired from his role on due to budgetary issues," the site wrote. "The show had become more expensive as Waite aged, usually at the same time the ratings start to decline."

It seems the producers were originally planning to have Season 8 be the final one, and thus would be able to keep all the original cast members. But CBS gave an unexpected go-ahead and renewed the show for a Season 9 run. However, there was one caveat: The producers had to tighten the budget — and they needed to appeal to a younger audience. 

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the waltons ralph waite
Source: CBS

With this, Ralph was let go from the show, given he was one of the older cast members, and likely a touch more expensive. He was only given a contract for eight episodes, and he was not offered to come back for the remaining 14 episodes of the final season of The Waltons

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Ralph Waite was included in the reunion movies of 'The Waltons.'

The show was incredibly popular and with that, there were several reunion movies that came after the show ended in 1981. In total, there were five reunion movies starting from the year after the show went off the air — in 1982 there were three movies including: A Wedding on Walton's Mountain, Mother's Day on Walton's Mountain, and A Day for Thanks on Walton's Mountain.

the waltons
Source: National Broadcasting Company
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11 years after the final TV movie for The Waltons, there was another one made in 1993 titled A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion. Ralph was also featured in this movie, and the final two which came in 1995 (A Walton Wedding) and 1997 (A Walton Easter).

Is Ralph Waite still alive?

When Ralph left The Waltons, he did several other TV projects, including recurring roles on NCIS and Days of Our Lives

After gracing TV screens for 48 years, Ralph Waite passed away on Feb. 13, 2014, at his home in South Palm Desert, Calif., at 85 years old. 

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