Best sister ever: Kami Cotler asked to put her brother on The Waltons
He appeared in five episodes — and eventually got his own sitcom.
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In "The Graduation," John-Boy spends the episode preparing to graduate high school, getting classmates to sign his autograph book and practicing the commencement walk in his small classroom. Toward the end of the episode, John-Boy returns to the empty classroom in a pondering mood, and it’s then that a young boy walks in and mistakes him for the teacher. John-Boy laughs and tells him no, then seats him in the middle desk and goes to fetch the real teacher, promising the young boy, "You’ll like her."
It’s a fleeting moment in an impactful episode, but The Waltons producers still wanted to find the right boy for John-Boy to set up for a positive schooling experience. And it was right at this moment that their show’s youngest star, Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth Walton, walked right up to them and asked that they cast her younger brother Jeff on the show.
Just like that, Jeff Cotler became the boy John-Boy leaves his classroom to, and Kami kicked off her younger brother’s acting career without more than a single ask.
In a Facebook post last year, the classic TV star remembered that her mother was worried Jeff would be jealous of his sister's starring role on the show. Kami wrote that her mom thought Jeff could be an extra, just like some of the other Walton kids had arranged for their siblings. But at 9 years old, Kami didn’t know the difference between an extra and an actual part on the show. So she made the bigger ask, making her the best sister ever? She wrote:
"My mom asked me to get Jeffrey a part on The Waltons because she worried he might be jealous of the attention I was receiving. She imagined he might work as an extra, as Mary's sister and Eric's brother both did. I had no idea how one became an extra, so I just walked across the lot to the producers' office and asked them to give my baby brother a part. They happened to be looking for a little boy for 'The Graduation.' Jeffrey wasn't eager to be on the show, my mom told him it'd be a favor to me, and he certainly didn't want to have lines! After much cajoling, he agreed to do it, and he did a very fine job indeed."
Although young Jeff may not have wanted lines, he got to say way more onscreen than simply asking John-Boy if he’s the teacher in "The Graduation." He went on to appear in five episodes of The Waltons, including a recurring role as an English orphan named Pip Wrayburn in the cherished episodes "The Children’s Carol" and "The Milestone."
Little brother must’ve caught the acting bug, because fans of 1970s TV have commented on Kami’s Facebook posts (she has posted fondly about her brother’s acting career multiple times) remembering seeing him appear on shows like Mork & Mindy, Eight Is Enough and CHiPs.
Jeff even starred in his own series, the short-lived Struck by Lightning, a sitcom about Frankenstein's monster. Alas, it aired just three weeks before CBS pulled the plug.
In her Facebook post, Kami joked that her brother’s acting career was motivated by a classic kid wish.
She pointed out, "The check he received was much larger than his 50-cents-a-week allowance, and that is why my brother continued to act on television."