Skip to main content

Little House on the Prairie star Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson for seven seasons. Here’s what she said about an unusual interaction she had with former co-star Melissa Sue Anderson.

Alison Arngrim says Melissa Sue Anderson was a ‘mystery’

Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson smile during a scene.
Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson | Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Arngrim says Anderson was distant. In her book, Confessions of a Prairie B****, she describes their first meeting. Arngrim says Anderson gave her an “artificial” smile and introduced herself. According to Arngrim, Anderson remained a “mystery” during the entire time she was on the show. She says she had never been to Anderson’s house, and she didn’t talk about her personal life.

Alison Arngrim says Melissa Sue Anderson ‘appeared’ to ‘threaten’ her

Arngrim says she and Anderson were getting ready to film a fight scene between their characters Mary and Nellie. The two actors were having their makeup applied. In the fight scene, Nellie accuses Caroline Ingalls (played by Karen Grassle) of having an affair with the handyman and cheating on Charles.

Mary is supposed to lash out because she’s insulted someone would suggest her mother was being unfaithful. Arngrim says it’s one of the rare times the Mary character “loses it.” For this scene, Anderson’s character is supposed to hit Arngrim’s character with a metal lunch box. However, the prop department decided to switch to a rubber lunch box later on.  

Arngrim says she and Anderson began to engage in “trash talking” before their scene. She compared their exchange to TV wrestlers trying to rile each other up before a match. According to Arngrim, at one point, Anderson turned to her and said she was “really going to hit” her. Arngrim says Anderson wasn’t smiling, and she thought it was possible that she was being threatened.

Arngrim didn’t back down, and told Anderson that when she pulled her hair, she was going to “rip it out by the roots.” Arngrim says she grinned after delivering that message. However, when Arngrim and Anderson arrived for the scene, a few things had changed. They would no longer be fighting each other. Instead, the Mary character would slap the Nellie character, and she would run away after being slapped.

Arngrim thinks someone might have heard their trash talking in the makeup trailer and decided to do away with the fight scene for fear that someone would get hurt. According to Arngrim, Anderson looked “pissy” that she didn’t get the chance to hit her. Arngrim says she was disappointed because she would have liked to “take a swing at” Anderson.

Melissa Gilbert thought Melissa Sue Anderson was ‘evil’ and that she would ‘kill’ her

Arngrim says Melissa Gilbert gave her a warning and told her to “watch out” for Anderson. Gilbert also reportedly said she “hated” Anderson and that she was “evil.” Arngrim says Gilbert also said Anderson tried to “kill” her and that she would probably try to do the same to her.

Arngrim figured Gilbert was exaggerating, so she didn’t take her seriously. She didn’t think what Gilbert said could have been true because she was just a child. She decided not to judge Anderson, resolving to make her own conclusions as she got to know her co-star. It’s safe to say Arngrim made her decision about Anderson after that incident in the makeup trailer.

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: Caroline Ingalls Wasn’t Interesting According to Karen Grassle

Follow Sheiresa Ngo on Twitter.