Karen Grassle’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Fame Helped Her New Movie

Little House on the Prairie ran on NBC from 1974 to 1983. And yet, the series — based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling book series — has endured for decades. In fact, Little House on the Prairie remains so beloved that star Karen Grassle‘s role on the show had a direct impact on her latest movie. Here’s how 2021 film Not to Forget owes part of its success to Little House on the Prairie.

Karen Grassle smiles in ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Karen Grassle | NBCU Photo Bank

Karen Grassle plays Caroline Ingalls in ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Prior to Little House on the Prairie, Grassle was perhaps best known for her work on stage. In the late 1960s, she made her Broadway debut in the short-lived The Gingham Dog. But she found the role that would define her career when she auditioned to play Caroline Ingalls, the matriarch of the central family on Little House on the Prairie.

Starring opposite Michael Landon, Grassle helped create an idyllic television family. So it stands to reason that Little House on the Prairie would resonate so strongly with fans of all ages. The show’s popularity only continued to grow after it ended its run, thanks to syndication that kept reruns on the air and Grassle herself a favorite of many fans.

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Fans’ love for ‘Little House on the Prairie’ affected her latest movie

Grassle’s Little House on the Prairie legacy played an integral role during the production of Not to Forget. In fact, writer-director Valerio Zanoli told Showbiz Cheat Sheet about how Grassle’s involvement in the film helped him secure permission to film in a Kentucky courthouse.

“Karen was like, ‘I want to tag along. I want to come with you guys when you go to the courthouse to try to convince the judge to let us film there.’ So I was like, ‘Karen, are you sure? You don’t need to bother.’ She was like, ‘No, no, I’m coming with you.’ So we walk into the courthouse, we go to the clerk. And I start explaining why it’s important we film at the courthouse, and then Karen sparks to speak.

So the clerk didn’t recognize her, but the moment she starts to speak, the clerk lights up. I actually thought, ‘Is she okay? What’s going on?’ And she’s like, ‘Oh my God, you are Karen Grassle. You are from my favorite TV show.’ The clerk was so in love with Karen, and everybody started to smile and laugh about it. Of course, we got the courthouse. …

Seeing how [Little House on the Prairie] affects people, how people still love her because of that show. It’s nice to see how you can have an impact. It reminds you that what you’re doing is not just business. It’s not just one movie. You can change people, and people are going to remember maybe not you, but they’re going to remember the movie.”

The film focuses on a young man (Tate Dewey) sentenced to house arrest at his grandmother’s (Grassle) house. So the scenes at the courthouse are pivotal to setting up the rest of the story. And thanks to Grassle, Zanoli was able to give those scenes in Not to Forget the scope they needed to really set up the rest of the story to follow.

‘Not to Forget’ is currently available to rent on-demand

For Zanoli, Not to Forget is a lot more than just a movie. In fact, the story — which deals heavily with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease — aims to spread awareness about the condition. And as Zanoli told Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Grassle too had a personal reason for signing on to the film.

“[Karen] came to Kentucy to put all of herself. … She opened up and she made herself completely available. At every free moment she had, she was coming with notes, even off-set. She was really thoughtful about the role. And she told me that she had a close friend with Alzheimer’s, and she wanted to honor her. That’s why she was making this film. Besides the fact it’s important to everybody and make everybody aware, it really hit home for her.”

Even now, Little House on the Prairie helped facilitate Zanoli’s vision. It’s a testament to how beloved the show and Grassle’s performance is even now that it came into play on Not to Forget.

Not to Forget is available to rent on-demand now.

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