Jim Strain interview: ‘The Waltons: Homecoming’ writer
“It’s a daunting thing to carry on the Earl Hamner Jr. legacy,” declares Jim Strain about the task of bring a new incarnations of The Waltons to television. Strain served as writer and co-executive producer of the 2021 television film “The Waltons: Homecoming.” In our exclusive video interview (watch above), Strain talks about his love of the original series and the challenges of reimagining the characters for a new audience.
The new telefilm is an adaptation of 1971’s “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” which first introduced viewers to the Walton family. That film’s success spawned the Emmy-winning drama “The Waltons,” which ran for nine seasons and spawned a number of reunion films. This new reimagining for The CW stars Bellamy Young as matriarch Olivia Walton and Logan Shroyer as eldest son John-Boy. Richard Thomas, who earned an Emmy for playing John-Boy in the original series, serves as the new film’s narrator.
Strain was a fan of the original series, but says that the 1971 film had a strong impact on him. “There was a feeling about it, the way they depicted rural life, that was both empowering and instructive,” he says. “The characters were wonderful and relatable. It had a lot of heart, and those are the things that struck me and the things that we’ve tried to preserve as we’ve moved forward trying to bring it to a new generation.”
He argues that one of the great challenges in creating a new version of the story involved balancing the old with the new. “There are certain things that people want to see again,” he explains. “But I also felt like it needed a fresh perspective on some things. So it’s trying to balance some new material, some areas where you change things without losing the heart and what really made it important.”
Strain particularly worked to sharpen the characters of the Walton children. “I really wanted to define their characters in a way that they had arcs,” he says. “Dreams are a very important part of this kind of subtext, but all the players had dreams– aside from John-Boy, who wanted to be a writer– that they want to fulfill.”
When asked why the Waltons continue to attract audiences more than 50 years after their television debut, Strain points to the values of acceptance and family that run throughout the show. “I think these are universal values and they’re not in a time lock,” he argues. “Given the difficulties we face and the complexity, people are really yearning for the simplicity and the clarity that comes from those interpersonal reactions.”