They were America’s favorite TV husband and wife, but so it turns out, The Waltons co-stars Michael Learned and Ralph Waite had a secret romance off-screen, too!
In a new interview with Daily Mail, Learned spilled that she and the late actor almost became lovers during the early stages of the show, which ran from 1971 until 1981.
Apparently, the two were “in love” when the cameras weren’t rolling, but they never took their heated flirting to the next level. “We had a deep love for each other that we would have ruined if we had taken it that extra step, and we didn’t,” she told the news outlet. “We never did. We thought about it, but we didn’t.”
She also admitted they had “instant chemistry,” which helped make the scenes feel “more real.” Learned said, “There was a period where Ralph and I were both single and we did love each other so we made a date and it was going to happen and we got together and we looked at each other and went, ‘Nah, this will never work.'”
“It might have gotten messy, but our love was very deep and very true,” she said, noting that he helped her overcome her alcohol addiction. “Thankfully, we had the good sense to not take it the next step, because I think it would have gotten messy. It might have gotten messy, but our love was very deep and very true.”
But they never let their failed romance affect their friendship or on-screen chemistry — they even remained friends till his death in 2014 from old age. “I think that’s why we became a spiritual husband and wife if you will, and I miss him terribly. His wife is a very good friend,” she added. “But what Ralph and I had was something that came across on screen.”
Learned tearfully shared, “He was a complicated man. He had a lot of issues. He lost a daughter from leukemia and I think that’s when he started drinking”
“He had so many colors to his life and his character and he was deeply honest with himself and God conscious I think, and complicated. And because we remained the kind of friends we remained, none of that bothered me,” Learned noted. “But if we’d been married or something, I might have had a problem with his complicatedness and he might have with mine.”
Despite everything, she proudly admitted to their scandalous attraction on the fifth anniversary of Waite’s death. “We’re both very flawed human beings, but I loved him dearly, what can I say? And he loved me.”