‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Was ‘Hired on the Spot’ After She Nailed this Scene

It’s hard to imagine Alison Arngrim playing anyone else in Little House on the Prairie. Cast perfectly as Nellie Oleson, the actor quickly became the villain that fans love to hate. A snotty bully, fans loved the moments where Nellie got her comeuppance. In fact, some of the most loved episodes of Little House on the Prairie involved Nellie getting her just due. Who could possibly forget Nellie’s screams as she tumbled down the hill in a wheelchair into the cold water?

Little House on the Prairie cast: Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert
Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert | NBCU Photo Bank

Funnily enough, Arngrim didn’t originally try out for her infamous role when she auditioned for Little House on the Prairie. Like many other young girls, Arngrim was interested in playing Laura Ingalls and she also threw her hat in the ring in pursuit of the role of Laura’s older sister, Mary Ingalls. In an interview with Zoomer, the actor recalled just how competitive the audition process was for Laura.

Alison Arngrim tried out for Laura Ingalls before she was cast as Nellie Oleson

“I’d originally tried out for the parts of Laura and Mary, but the search for Laura Ingalls was like the search for Scarlett O’Hara everybody auditioned,” Arngrim shared laughing. Fortunately for the actor, casting saw something in her and gave her the opportunity to audition for Nellie. The actor was given a scene from the second episode of Little House on the Prairie and she delivered such a fun performance that the show’s producers asked her to do it again.

“So, I later read for the part of Nellie and did the scene from the episode ‘Country Girls’ which has her saying the bit about ‘my home is the best home in Walnut Grove’ and I had Michael Landon and the producers laughing hysterically,” the Little House on the Prairie alum admitted. “They asked me to do it again. And, like any good child actress, I said ‘Oh, yes, what would you like me to change?’ And they laughed and said, ‘Nothing, just read the part about the house again.’”

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ star was hired on the spot

The Little House on the Prairie producers were so taken with Arngrim’s portrayal of Nellie that she was offered the part instantaneously. She’d barely left the audition when her agent called her to give her the exciting news. “By the time I’d left, got in the car with my father and drove away, my agent was already calling to tell me that the wardrobe fitting was on Tuesday,” the actor shared. “I was hired on the spot. I was stunned.”

And Arngrim would continue to be stunned throughout her tenure on Little House on the Prairie and even long after that. The actor had absolutely no idea that the show would reach such popularity, let alone become a classic. In fact, even Argrim’s father didn’t think the show would take off the way that it did.

Argrim’s father didn’t believe ‘Little House on the Prairie’ would make it past Season 1

“We didn’t know it would be iconic at the time,” Arngrim shared of her fellow Little House on the Prairie cast members. “I’d never read the books, so I had no idea who Nellie Oleson was until I went to the audition. But most of us on the show didn’t think it would last longer than the first season. Even my own father said, ‘Oh, who’s going to watch this?'” Clearly, Argrim’s father was wrong as the show continues to be well-loved today. We’re sure that fans of the show are glad that Arngrim was cast as Nellie as it’s hard to picture anyone else in that role.