‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actors’ On-Screen Chemistry Made Michael Landon Think They Were Sleeping Together in Real Life
Most Little House on the Prairie fans loved the pairing of Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim) and Percival Dalton (Steve Tracy). It turns out the actors’ on-screen chemistry was so believable that even Michael Landon thought the two might have been hooking up in real life.
Alison Arngrim was thrilled to play opposite Steve Tracy
In her book Confessions of a Prairie B*tch, Arngrim shared how she worried about who would be cast as her love interest on the show, noting that he had been “written as a comedic character” so she thought perhaps she’d be paired with a “character actor.” She explained how she assumed that meant “an ugly guy.”
Tracy played Percival opposite Arngrim, and she couldn’t have been happier about it, noting how she was pleasantly surprised that her romantic scene partner was cute. He came on board as Nellie’s husband and held his own when it came to joining the established show and close cast.
“His comic timing was impeccable, and it was clear from our very first scene that we had chemistry,” she wrote.
Arngrim was comfortable with kissing scenes
Nellie and Percival fell in love, so there was plenty of kissing between Arngrim and Tracy, something that she was more than happy to do.
“Steve was a hit with the audience,” Arngrim shared in her book. “When he marched into the Mercantile and told Mrs. Oleson to ‘be quiet!’ he instantaneously became a national hero.”
“And boy, could he kiss,” she continued. “When Nellie declares her love, and Percival asks her to marry him right there in the street, we both agreed to just go for it. It was a full, open-mouthed lip lock. It made sense to me and Steve. Nellie clearly had a lot of pent-up emotions she’d been suppressing for a really long time, and Percival was a grown man, not a shy teenage boy.”
“They were madly in love, so we figured these two would be the kind to kiss their brains out when given the chance,” she added.
Michael Landon thought they were a real couple
Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert discovered that Tracy was gay, but the actors still generated plenty of heat in their scenes. Their chemistry was so believable that even Landon thought they were a couple in real life.
“Back then gay actors, especially actors on shows like Little House on the Prairie didn’t come out of the closet,” she wrote. “They often went to absurd lengths to make up cover relationships.”
“But Steve didn’t have to worry about covering because everyone thought he was sleeping with me,” she continued. “It helped our performance enormously. “
The actor recalled a scene in season 7 where Percival and Nellie were in bed laughing under the covers, explaining, “Steve and I weren’t acting.”
The two wore funny underwear in an effort to “break the ice” and the way the two co-stars were having such a good time in the scene made Landon wonder if they had an off-screen relationship.
“We were in fits. We giggled and snorted all over the place,” she wrote. “We laughed so hard, that Michael began to wonder what we were up to. He came up close to the bed and said, ‘What have you two been … Wait, are you guys …?’ He wouldn’t complete the question.”
“We weren’t sure if he was about to ask if we were sleeping together in real life, or if we were stoned, both of which must have seemed like reasonable possibilities at the time,” she added.
Arngrim said the question “sent us into further hysterics” because no one knew Tracy was gay. “And not only did none of these people have a clue, they even believed that he and I were a romantic couple — that we were having sex.”