Forty-one years have passed since "The Waltons" ended, and most of the cast still pursue a career in acting. But Kami Cotler chose a different path. Where is she now? Find out.
American Actress and Educator Kami Cotler got into showbiz at six years old. She starred as Elizabeth Walton, the youngest of John and Olivia's seven children, on the CBS family drama series "The Waltons."
A fan favorite at the time, Cotler acted as Elizabeth for nine years before she left. Throughout her time on the show, the actress had many fun moments and different experiences.
Pictures of actress Kami Cotler | Source: facebook.com/Kami Cotler || Getty Images
In a write-up she posted on Facebook in March 2022, Cotler shared some details about her experiences on set. According to California law, the actress revealed that actors under 18 years old were expected to have an adult with them on set.
While many cast members had their parents present, Cotler's parents had to work. So, they found a guardian who accompanied her. A resident in Orange County at the time, the actress would spend over an hour in traffic every day before getting to the filming location.
When Cotler arrived, her guardian would help get her into a costume and ensure she was not distracted from the dressing room to hair and makeup.
Christopher George and Kami Cotler appearing in the 1972 TV movie 'The Heist' | Source: Getty Images
After the day's work was done, Cotler would have a long drive home in traffic. What was more difficult was shuffling between school and work at a young age.
For the Waltons kid actors, they needed to attend school for three hours a day. So, the studio provided a certified teacher and a trailer, and the kids ran back and forth between the set and the school.
Irrespective of the stress, Cotler said working at such a young age was a great experience. The actress said it was positive and thought she was lucky to be on "The Waltons." Cotler had a lot of people to hang out with as the adult actors established a professional and friendly environment.
According to the star, there were new guests every week and even animals on set. In 2021, she recalled an incident where she got distracted by a cow and missed her lines.
They were filming "The Homecoming" episode, and the actress noted that she was mesmerized by the cow in a scene and forgot to say her lines. But in the end, she realized that being distracted was not an option. In her words:
"I did occasionally miss lines. We all did, but I did realize it was important to pay attention and do your best to not mess up."
COTLER'S BEST AND WORST MEMORIES ON THE SHOW
Virginia Gregg as Ada Corley and Kami Cotler as Elizabeth Walton in the episode 'The Ordeal', in the CBS television series "The Waltons," which aired on December 1, 1977 | Source: Getty Images
Although Cotler had many fun memories on the show, there were some she tagged as her favorite and best experiences. Some of the actress's favorite moments include falling off a bridge, swimming with beavers, listening to Will Gear tell stories, etc.
For Cotler, the best of her favorite and unique memories was meeting people from different backgrounds and experiences. On the other hand, she spoke about the difficult moments on set thus:
"The harder part was transitioning back to school each spring and having to be cautious about new people… were they really seeing me as me, or just thinking about Elizabeth."
Despite the challenging moments, Cotler still cherishes the time spent on the show. She bonded with her colleagues on screen, but she also had a great relationship with them off the screen.
Speaking about the most impactful off-screen money she had with her TV mom Michael Learned, Cotler said:
"Michael is one of the most sensitive and caring people I know. She was always warm to all of the kids."
Regarding her on-screen father, Ralph Waite, Cotler said most of the impactful moments with him were on TV. She recounted an episode where she and Waite danced the waltz together as on-screen father and daughter.
WHY DID COTLER QUIT ACTING?
Kami Cotler attends the "In the Know" Facts about Cosmetic Surgery Risks media conference, "No On Silicone" at the Beverly Hills Hotel September 5, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images
After being on "The Waltons" for nine years, Cotler realized that acting was not for her. So, she quit and decided to live differently. The actress spoke candidly about her decision during an interview session.
She confessed that after being on "The Waltons" for many years, she was ready to go to college and had no plans to study acting. Cotler also added that as she began to audition for other shows, it was not as enjoyable as working.
Kami Cotler attends "Father's Day Salute to TV Dads" in North Hollywood, California on June 18, 2009 | Source: Getty Images
"And I was a teen by then, so the auditioning dynamic was different. I figured I was entitled to a break since I'd spent every summer vacation [from the age of] six to 16 working in 'The Waltons,'" Cotler added.
Thankfully, the actress left the show with many lessons, including appreciating differences. In addition, Cotler mentioned that the show elevated her status in her life. Had the child star not been on "The Waltons," she would not have interacted with people different from her.
INSIDE COTLER'S CAREER AS A TEACHER
Kami Cotler (C) attends the 'The Waltons' 40th anniversary reunion at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on September 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images
After Cotler quit acting, she chose to pursue a career in education. The educator decided to teach because it offered her an opportunity to learn more about American culture. She further said of her choice:
"Teaching seemed more important than acting, but it also had some similarity with acting – a school faculty and staff operates like a cast and crew. It's never boring."
Currently, Cotler is a K-12 teacher and admin. She loves interdisciplinary learning, college sports, dance, books, and food. In addition, the child actress is an English teacher and has also taught history.
Kami Cotler attends the 40th Anniversary Reunion of "The Waltons" in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 2, 2011 | Source: Getty Images
After many years as a teacher, she founded the Environmental Charter Middle School, an educational institute for underserved kids in southern Los Angeles County, California. In January 2022, she also helped a middle school test 360 students for COVID.
Actress Kami Cotler attends The Actor's Fund 2014 The Looking Ahead Awards held at the Taglyan Cultural Complex on December 4, 2014 in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images
Cotler is excited about watching her family grow and learn. She is also excited about the extraordinary work her colleagues at Environmental Charter Schools are doing and the promise of their students.
THE CO-STARS' RELATIONSHIP AFTER "THE WALTONS"
The cast of TV show, "The Watsons" appear on NBC News' "Today" show | Source: Getty Images
It has been 41 years since "The Waltons" ended; still, Cotler has maintained a great relationship with her co-stars. In her words:
"They are a second family. We see each other for family events, like Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, or funerals. Whenever we get together, it's like a family reunion."
One of the co-stars Cotler has remained very close to is Rachel Longaker, who played Elizabeth's best friend, Aimee. Cotler noted that they still see each other, as Longaker is in Los Angeles, working in Library sciences.
Eric Scott, Kami Cotler, David Harper, and Mary McDonough attends the 40th Anniversary reunion of "The Waltons" in 2011 | Source: Getty Images
In 2013, the "The Waltons" cast reunited, over 30 years after the show ended. They recalled the most emotional moment they had while filming, which was seeing the family's house burn down.
"We all stood out in the yard and watched the house burn and sobbed. There was no acting," Judy Norton Taylor recounted.
The cast of "The Waltons" attend the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the show in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 2, 2011 | Source: Getty Images
While the cast of the original series may not all feature in a movie together, the memories they created on "The Waltons" will last forever.
In November 2021, "The Waltons Homecoming" movie premiered in Los Angeles, and the cast of the original series, including Cotler, were present. It was a memorable event.