Will Geer’s daughter once described growing up with Grandpa Walton

On The Waltonswe told you how to watch Ellen Geer, real life daughter of Zeb Walton actor Will Geer, in two episodes, The Pledge and The Ceremony.

Fans enjoy noting the facial features she shares with her father – even the lines on her forehead appear to pucker in the same way to express concern – when seeing these appearances.

For Ellen when boarding The Waltons The world must have reminded her a bit of home, and not just because her father was right there on set when she first appeared.

She once described the simple life she experienced growing up, when Geer moved her entire family to a deserted canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains after being blacklisted as an actor.

Ellen tells The Associated Press in 2001 that her family was destitute and homeless at the time and the move to the Ravine was out of Geer’s desperation to keep them all together as they weathered the hard times.

For Ellen, childhood was a time of real harshness.

“We used to get our water down in the canyon,” Ellen said. “We used to have a spigot inside the mountain.”

Though times were tough, Geer maintained his family by opening a makeshift Shakespeare theater right in the desert.

Lacking the means, he didn’t even have a proper building for the theater. Instead, he’d put on shows under the stars, in a meadow by a dry creek right next to their home.

However, to draw attention to the stage, he planted a lush garden similar to the garden he had created in the beginning The Waltons.

He dubbed this new theater destination in the desert the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, and Ellen said she’d watch as he did: “Put a sign on the street. Bring up an actor in costume, ‘Hey, please come to our show.'”

Geer’s plan worked remarkably, and he garnered a loyal following of fans for the theater, which Woody Guthrie sometimes turned up to play guitar.

Even after Geer found success as an actor again in the 1960s and 1970s, he never closed the theater and never returned to Hollywood. Instead, he continued to live in the ravine, with his daughter Ellen stepping in as principal when needed, eventually taking control after he died.

In fact, the theater was such a special place for Geer that his family buried his ashes next to a bust of the actor that probably still stands in the same spot in the theater in Topanga, California today.

His daughter Ellen Geer remains Producing Artistic Director of the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.

In her acting career, she has taken on many roles from the 1960s to this decade, most recently in television in 2020.

Though her childhood was unlike most people’s when it came to modern conveniences like plumbing, Ellen was always proud of her father for keeping the family together through difficult times.

And when she took over the theater and began inviting young actors to come out and practice their craft under the stars, she was confident her father would have approved.

“I think Pop would have liked it,” Ellen said. “I think he would have been very proud.”

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