In his 70s, Will Geer brought youth to his role on The Waltons

"I'm not ready for my coffin yet," he said. In his 70s, Geer brought a little life to Grandpa Walton.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Will Geer played the role of everyone's grandpa on The Waltons from 1972 until his death in 1978. His portrayal of Grandpa Walton contributed to the warmth and authenticity of the series. 

He not only played the part of grandpa on The Waltons, but he also played the part of grandpa for many TV viewers watching from home.

In real life, however, Will Geer was known for another role. According to a 1975 interview with The Pittsburgh Press, Geer was known as "America's sexiest grandfather." And while it was never an official title, Geer earned it fair and square.

"Sometimes the directors of the show complain I'm too sexy and earthy," Geer said. "But I think we have to keep on having a little fun even as we grow older."

In his 70s, Geer said he brought youth to his role as Grandpa Walton. While most grandparents may not be as active or have seemingly no energy, Geer wanted Grandpa Walton to have a little life in him.

"At first the writers had grandpa figured for a quiet, mild old duffer who was happy to sit around on a chair on the back of the set," Geer said. "I read that script and figured they'd kill me off and have a heartbreaking funeral by the third week. So I started asking for more action, and I got it."

Being a man of action is probably what earned Geer the title of "America's sexiest grandfather," but the title and his acting ability also got him a couple of parts in other series and shorts. He also gained unlimited respect from fans watching at home.

Whether the title was true or not, we'll let you decide. 

According to a 1974 interview with The Boston Globe, Geer said there was more than one reason for his and Grandpa Walton's similarities. Geer was a father of three and a grandfather of a few more. He said he shared Grandpa Walton's fondness for open air, nature and family.

"In fact, I have great leeway in my dialogue," Geer said. "I'm allowed to improvise at least 25 percent of my lines. 'Just say it the way you want to, Gramps,' they tell me. 'You've lived it all, by now you know this character inside and out.'"

For Geer, staying young was important in his old age, both in real life and onscreen. At the time of the interview, Geer said he had no thought of retiring from The Waltons. He added: "I'm not ready for my coffin yet."

"When I started I thought it was too syrupy and sweet," Geer said. '"This is fine for Christmas, once a year, but every week? I don't know,' I said to myself. But I learned kids need Christmas every week. I was impressed with the way the series caught hold and the quality it provided."

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5 Comments

logicgrrl 5 months ago
Most people don't know that in real life, Will Geer accepted his true self, which happened to be gay!
Familyaffair logicgrrl 5 months ago
Most? You took a survey? He was a communist?
Coldnorth logicgrrl 5 months ago
I had another comment I deleted. I don’t think being gay changes the fact he was a good actor. The other comment I had was harsh. Oh by the way, I am not gay. Hey, that rhymes
Peter logicgrrl 5 months ago
according to what's been written, he was bi-sexual. Grandma Walton was said to be a lesbian.
MrsPhilHarris 5 months ago
I liked Grandpa Walton. Fun character.
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