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Michael Learned
Born April 9, 1939 (1939-04-09) (age 70)
Washington, D.C., United States
Spouse(s) William Parker, IV (1979-present)
Glenn Chadwick (1974-1977)
Peter Donat (1956-1972)

Michael Learned (born April 9, 1939) is an American actress known for her role as Olivia Walton on The Waltons.



Learned was born in Washington, D.C., but lived on a Connecticut farm with her five sisters for the first ten years of her life. She was named Michael because her father, a diplomat, had wanted and expected to have a boy and had selected the name Michael in advance. When it was clear he had a daughter rather than a son, he decided to keep the name he had chosen.[citation needed]

Learned has been married three times. Her first husband was Canadian-American actor Peter Donat, whom she married in 1956, when she was 17 years old. The marriage was dissolved in 1972. She had three children by this marriage: Caleb, Christopher and Lucas. Her second marriage, to Glenn Chadwick, lasted from 1975-1977, again ending in divorce. In 1979, she married actor/screenwriter William Parker, IV.


She was billed as "Miss Michael Learned" on The Waltons because she was relatively unknown at the time, and producers did not want confusion among viewers about her sex. She was nominated for six Emmy Awards and won three for her role of Olivia Walton. In 1979, her contract was not renewed; some sources indicate that she opted not to re-sign with the show. Her seminal character's abrupt disappearance was explained by Olivia developing tuberculosis and entering a sanitarium. For continuity's sake, she did make occasional guest appearances until the show's cancellation. She was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards.

She later starred as Nurse Mary Benjamin in the hospital drama Nurse, which ran on CBS during the 1981-82 season. Though the series was well received critically, it was not a ratings success and lasted only two seasons. She was, however, nominated for two Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Lead Actress" and won yet another Emmy for her role in 1982. She had a starring role in the unsuccessful 1989 sitcom Living Dolls and reprised her Waltons role for a number of TV movies and reunions in the 1990s.

She played "Judge Helen Turner" on the ABC soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live as part of the "baby switch" storyline on both shows. In The Secret World of Alex Mack's second season, she guest starred as a ghost who regretted the decisions of her long-estranged granddaughter, revealed at the end to be the show's main villain, Danielle Atron. She also guest-starred in Scrubs as Mrs. Wilk in five episodes from the show's fifth season.

In the late 1960s, Learned and her husband (Peter Donat) appeared in various roles with the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco. She has appeared in many stage productions on Broadway, Off Broadway, and elsewhere, including in the 2006-2007 national touring production of On Golden Pond. In the fall of 2008 she starred in Innovation Theatre Works' production of Driving Miss Daisy, playing the title role of Daisy Werthen opposite Willis Burks II as Hoke and Dirk Blocker as Daisy's son Boolie.


  • The Other Man (mini-series) (1963)
  • Wojeck (1968)

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