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Little House on the Prairie star Alison Arngrim is famous for her portrayal of Nellie Oleson. She and Melissa Gilbert (she played Laura Ingalls) had scenes where their characters had to fight each other. Arngrim explains why they didn’t have to worry about hurting each other.

Alison Arngrim on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim on the set of Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim | NBCU Photo Bank

One of Arngrim’s early roles was in the 1974 movie Throw Out the Anchor! That same year, she began her starring role in Little House on the Prairie. She’s known for playing Nellie Oleson, who mercilessly bullied Laura Ingalls (played by Melissa Gilbert). Arngrim appeared in 104 episodes until the series ended in 1982.

During an interview with Megyn Kelly, Arngrim says she auditioned for the roles of Mary Ingalls (played by Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura Ingalls, and Nellie Oleson. She knew immediately the part of Nellie was like no other.  She says she turned to her father and said, “This is not a normal part; this girl is the b-word.”

Arngrim says her father encouraged her to read for the part of Nellie exactly as it was written in the script. “I was hired on the spot, which says something about me,” joked Arngrim. “I’m not sure what.”

Why Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert didn’t have to worry about hurting each other

Arngrim and Gilbert had scenes where their characters had to fight. There’s always the possibility during scenes like this that someone could get hurt, but Arngrim says that wasn’t a big concern. She knew everything would be OK between her and Gilbert. She wasn’t afraid of getting injured.

Although Arngrim and Gilbert played enemies onscreen, they were close friends offscreen. When Kelly asks about their relationship, Arngrim says, “She’s my baby sister, we love her.” The Nellie Oleson actor says she and Gilbert had an instant bond.

“We bonded right away,” says Arngrim. “There’s something about playing enemies and whacking each other around. As soon as we met there was some chemistry. And I think that’s why Little House was so good—the chemistry between the actors—the sparks were flying. And as soon as we met, we hit it off, we bonded. This made it great because we knew nobody was going to get hurt.”

Alison Arngrim’s favorite ‘Little House on the Prairie’ episode

Arngrim says her favorite episode was when her character, Nellie, was pushed down a hill while she was in a wheelchair. In this episode, Nellie Oleson fakes paralysis so that she can get attention. Laura gets revenge by pushing Nellie down the hill.

Arngrim told Kelly the funny story about that famous scene. She says she broke her arm in real life while she was skateboarding. Arngrim says Michael Landon signed her cast and then asked her if she was going skateboarding again. After she told him she didn’t plan on getting back on the skateboard anytime soon, she says Landon joked and said, “Good, because [if you do] I’ll break the other arm.”

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