Kami Cotler and Rachel Longaker remained life-long friends after The Waltons
There’s a sweet subplot in The Waltons episode "The Long Night" that centers on two little girls just trying to have fun, only to be divided when it’s deemed one of them is less ladylike than the other.
In the story, it’s Elizabeth Walton whom Corabeth Godsey deems a bad influence on her adopted daughter Aimee.
On The Waltons, Aimee appears in 16 episodes, established as Elizabeth’s best friend. The character was played by a child star named Rachel Longaker, who landed the role on The Waltons after appearing as a girl with ESP in an ABC after-school special.
For Longaker, this stint on The Waltons was hitting the bigtime.
As a child, she longed to be an actor, and not just someone with "a lot of teeth and hair" as 13-year-old Longaker told the Baltimore Sun in 1979, but a star performer with real acting chops like her heroes, Jane Alexander and Joanne Woodward.
Although her parents disapproved of her dream, they moved to Los Angeles in 1977, shortly after Longaker got the recurring role on The Waltons. Up until then, she’d been rising as an actor, appearing as John Denver’s daughter in the movie Oh, God and taking guest roles on popular TV programs like Little House on the Prairie and Roots.
But burnout came quick for the young star, who by 1979 was sick of going to auditions where a casting director asks, "Send in about 50 little blondes."
Instead of seeing herself as a budding star, she saw herself as nothing more than "Rachel the schoolgirl" in the eyes of these casting directors.
So when her dad got appointed provost at Johns Hopkins University and moved the family to Baltimore, she didn’t know how much longer her acting career would last. She likely didn’t realize just yet that 1979 would be her last year on The Waltons.
Despite being moved away from the action, Longaker continued to appear on TV occasionally in the Eighties, including doing a few more ABC Afterschool Specials, but by 1996, she retired from acting, never achieving the stardom she dreamed of as a little girl.
Before retiring, she did make time to return for 1993’s A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, despite ceding the role of Aimee to another actor named DeAnna Robbins for the prior three reunion movies.
Perhaps what brought her back was memories of hanging out with her old onscreen best friend Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth.
Cotler wrote on Facebook in 2020 that the pair of pals continued to see each other from time to time, becoming life-long friends over the years since The Waltons ended.
She said that after quitting acting, Longaker became a librarian.
For Cotler, it was cool having Longaker around, because she saw her as another young girl joining her TV family.
"Rachel was enormous fun to have on set," Cotler wrote. "I think we were both about 11 when she joined our show. It can't be easy joining a cast that has been working together so closely, but Rachel fit right in."