Who is Michael Learned?

Michael is an American actress, probably best known for her portrayal of Olivia Walton in the television series “The Waltons”, ahead of numerous other roles she’s had in her career.

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Michael Learned Wiki: Age, Childhood, and Education

Michael Learned was born on 9 April 1939 in Washington, D.C., USA, the daughter of Elizabeth Duane “Betti” and Bruce Learned. Her father was a diplomat, and her maternal grandfather served as an attaché for the US Embassy in Rome. Learned is the oldest of five children, all female.

During the first ten years, Learned lived on a farm in Connecticut. She mentioned that her parents never explained why she was named Michael, a boy’s name, sharing that her father once said that if she had been a boy, she would have been named Caleb, but since she was a girl, she was named Michael.

At 11, Michael moved to Austria as her father was transferred there and continued working for the US State Department. It was during this time that she attended the Arts Educational School, in Tring, Hertfordshire, England. It was there that she developed a passion for theater, and decided to pursue acting as her career.

Career Beginnings

Michael Learned started her career in the early ’60s; her first role was as Angelina in the TV series “Encounter” (1961), followed by an appearance in the TV series “Playdate” (1963-1964). She had an early role in the television series “Wojeck” in 1968, in which she portrayed Nina Eden in two episodes. However, her breakthrough and most famous role came in the television series “The Waltons”, which aired from 1972 to 1979, playing Olivia Walton, the matriarch of the Walton family.

The series depicted the lives of the Walton family in the rural community of Walton’s Mountain during the Great Depression and World War II, and Michael shared the screen with a talented cast that included Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton, Ralph Waite as John Walton Sr., Judy Norton Taylor as Mary Ellen Walton, Mary Elizabeth McDonough as Erin Walton, Eric Scott as Ben Walton, David W. Harper as Jim-Bob Walton, and Kami Cotler as Elizabeth Walton.

For her performance as Olivia, Michael Learned received several accolades, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1973, ‘74 and ‘76. Additionally, she received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama in those years, and was also nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1975, ‘78 and ‘79.

After “The Waltons”, Michael Learned took on several notable roles; in 1980, she portrayed Mary Benjamin in the television movie “Nurse”, which followed the professional and personal experiences of a compassionate and dedicated nurse named Mary Benjamin. The television film was well-received and garnered significant attention, and as a result was developed into a TV series that aired in 1981 and ‘82.

In the series, Mary Benjamin works at a large urban hospital, facing the challenges and rewards of her profession while dealing with personal and professional relationships. The show delved into the complexities of healthcare, the emotional toll on medical professionals, and the impact they have on their patients.

Learned’s performance in “Nurse” earned her critical acclaim and recognition, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role, highlighting her exceptional acting abilities, and solidifying her status as a respected television actress.

The series “Nurse” ran for 25 episodes, and significantly impacted Michael Learned’s career.

Additionally, the same year, Learned appeared in the television movie “A Christmas Without Snow”, playing the role of Zoe Jenson. The film revolves around a newly divorced woman who moves to San Francisco with her young daughter, and becomes involved with a local church choir.

In 1982, Michael Learned returned to her beloved role as Olivia Walton, in the TV movie “Mother’s Day on Waltons Mountain”. The movie was a reunion special that brought back the familiar characters from “The Waltons” series.

Then in 1988, Michael Learned appeared in the television movie “Roots: The Gift”, a sequel to the groundbreaking miniseries “Roots”, based on Alex Haley’s novel, in which she portrayed Amelia Parker, a descendant of the original protagonist, Kunta Kinte. Set during the early 20th century, the story follows Amelia’s journey as she searches for her own identity and connects with her family’s rich heritage.

Michael next appeared in the television movie “Power”, in which she portrayed Governor Andrea Stannard. Then in 1989, she was Trish Carlin in the TV series “Living Dolls”, a spin-off from the popular sitcom “Who’s the Boss?”, and which followed the lives of a group of young models trying to make it in the fashion industry.

Learned shared the screen with a talented ensemble that included Leah Remini as Charlie Briscoe, a street-smart aspiring model, and Halle Berry as Emily Franklin, a naive yet determined young model.

The ’90s and Continued Success

She continued her career by portraying Judy Smart in the television movie “Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Wojas Smart Story”, based on true events revolving around the murder of Gregg Smart, orchestrated by his wife, Pamela Smart. Judy Smart, played by Michael Learned, is Gregg Smart’s mother, and becomes a central figure in the investigation and trial surrounding her son’s murder. She shared the screen with Helen Hunt and Chad Allen.

Then in 1993, she played Vivian Emery in the biographical drama “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story”, based on the life of martial arts legend. It follows Bruce Lee’s journey from his early days as a struggling actor to his rise as a global icon in martial arts, with Jason Scott Lee in the lead role, co-starring Lauren Holly.

Throughout the 1990s, Michael Learned made a series of returns to her iconic role as Olivia Walton in various television movies centered around the Walton family. In 1993, she appeared in “A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion”, which revolves around the Walton family as they come together to celebrate Thanksgiving. It explores the joys and challenges faced by the family members as they navigate their relationships, and reminisce about their shared past.

In 1995, Michael returned as Olivia Walton in “A Walton Wedding”, which focuses on the wedding of one of the Walton children as the family prepares for the joyous occasion, and confronts personal struggles along the way. It highlights the enduring love and unity of the Walton family.

In 1997, Michael portrayed Olivia Walton once again in “A Walton Easter”, centering around celebrations, as the Walton family gathers to reflect on the significance of the holiday, and face their own individual journeys.

The 2000s and Recent Work

After her notable roles in the 1980s and early 1990s, Michael Learned continued her acting career with appearances in minor roles and a few notable projects. In 2000, she appeared as Congresswoman Benedict in an episode “Article 32”.of the TV series “Pensacola: Wings of Gold”. In 2003, she made a guest appearance in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as Candace Lamery in the episode “Privilege”.

In 2005, Learned made a one-time appearance in the soap opera “All My Children” as Judge Turner in the episode “1.9044”. She also appeared in two episodes of “One Life to Live” as Hon. Judge Turner.

From 2006 to 2010, Michael Learned had a recurring role as Mrs Wilk in the TV series “Scrubs”, appearing in a total of seven episodes. Concurrently, in 2009, she appeared in the episode “WASP of “Cold Case” as Louise Patterson ’09.

In 2010, Learned had a substantial role in the soap opera “General Hospital”, portraying Shirley Smith in 21 episodes. Then in 2011, she made a guest appearance in the TV series “Mr. Sunshine” as Maggie in the episode “The Best Man”. She also appeared in 13 episodes of “The Young and the Restless” as Katherine Chancellor.

Most recently, in 2022, Michael Learned portrayed Catherine Dahmer in the Netflix series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”.

Net Worth

According to authoritative sources, Michael Learned’s net worth is estimated at $3 million, as of mid-2023.

Personal Life, Marriage, Husband, Wife

At the young age of 17 in 1956, Michael married Canadian-American actor Peter Donat. The union lasted for 15 years before coming to an end in 1972, during which they welcomed three sons, Caleb, Christopher and Lucas Donat.

Her second marriage took place in 1974, when she tied the knot with Glen Chadwick, however, their union faced difficulties, and ended in divorce in 1977.

In 1979, Michael found love once again, and married actor-screenwriter William Parker, however, their marriage also reached its conclusion, resulting in divorce in 1988. It was a period of personal growth and reflection for Michael as she navigated through the ups and downs of her personal life.

Since 1988, Michael Learned has been married to lawyer John Doherty. In a heartfelt article written for Daily Word, a publication of the Unity Church, Michael shared a deeply personal revelation, disclosed that during her time in “The Waltons”, she faced her darkest moments and realized she was struggling with alcoholism. At the age of 32, she made a life-changing decision to seek sobriety. Taking solace in her former husband’s cabin along the California coast, she embarked on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and healing. According to sources, she’s been sober since 1977.

Appearance and Body Measurements

Michael Learned has blonde hair and blue eyes. She stands at a height of 5ft 7ins (1.7m), while as of mid-2023, her weight and other body measurements are unknown.

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