‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Said She Was Called ‘Quite Stupid’ by Co-Star Melissa Sue Anderson

Little House on the Prairie made its debut on NBC in 1974. Making household names of the show’s three youngest stars, the historical drama put Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls), Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls), and Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) at the forefront of most episodes.

While Gilbert and Arngrim formed a close friendship, Anderson tended to keep a distance while on set. Arngrim recalled making an attempt to bond with her co-star, but was met with a surprising insult.

Alison Arngrim of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Alison Arngrim of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

Alison Arngrim felt Melissa Sue Anderson was unfriendly

Arngrim tried her best to bypass Anderson’s reserved demeanor and initiate conversation with her co-star.

“Being nice to Melissa Sue Anderson became a Zen meditative exercise,” she wrote in her book Confessions of a Prairie B*tch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated. “Waiting for her to respond was like waiting to hear the sound of one hand clapping. … Sometimes she didn’t even look up from what she was reading, as if I wasn’t even there.”

Arngrim revealed that she, Gilbert, and Anderson were continually compared to each other by producers and the parents on set.

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“We were not the same age,” the Little House alum explained. “I was the eldest, which confused many adults on the set. Melissa Sue looked older than I did, and so often when trying to excuse what was by then politely being referred to as her ‘aloofness,’ people would say, ‘It’s a teenage phase.'”

‘Little House’ star tried to find a common interest with her cast mate

Arngrim persisted in trying to mesh with Anderson. She took notice of a board game her co-star seemed interested in, and used that as a possible talking point.

“I was excited when I saw that [Anderson] had taken up backgammon and thought this might be my opportunity to finally break through her impenetrable shell,” Arngrim recalled. “I didn’t know how to play at all, but I thought, ‘Even better! Not only is it a game she likes, but she can show off how good she is by teaching me to play it.”

Once again, Arngrim’s pursuit of common ground with Anderson wasn’t met with a positive reception.

“I marched up to her and expressed an interest in the game,” the Little House star shared. “She looked at me in utter disgust and said, ‘No, it figures you wouldn’t know how. You’ve always been a tad backwards.'”

Alison Arngrim’s attempt went further downhill

Though Arngrim was used to Anderson’s more distant nature, she was surprised by the rude remark and tried to brush it off as a joke.

“I decided to go with the possibility, however unlikely, that this was an attempt at humor,” she said. “I laughed nervously. … She wasn’t laughing. ‘No,’ she continued coldly. ‘Actually, I’d say you’re a lot backwards. In fact, you’re quite stupid.'”

At that point, Arngrim took took her cue and decided to abandon her friendship project.

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“Ah, so apparently, she didn’t feel like teaching me to play backgammon,” Arngrim remembered. “And as I didn’t feel like finding out what she was going to say next, I got the hell out of there.”