‘Little House on the Prairie’: Why Dean Butler Called the Cast a ‘Family of Cousins’

Dean Butler was recruited for the role of Almanzo Wilder in season 6 of Little House on the Prairie. Joining the ensemble cast more than midway through the series’ run, Butler felt immediately welcomed by his co-stars. While they were a close-knit group, the Little House alum pointed out how show creator and star Michael Landon didn’t have much time for socializing.

Cast of 'Little House on the Prairie': (l-r) Matthew Labyorteaux, Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Dean Butler, Melissa Sue Anderson, Linwood Boomer, (bottom l-r) Karen Grassle, and Lindsay/Sidney Greenbush
Cast of ‘Little House on the Prairie’: (l-r) Matthew Labyorteaux, Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Dean Butler, Melissa Sue Anderson, Linwood Boomer, (bottom l-r) Karen Grassle, and Lindsay/Sidney Greenbush | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Michael Landon ‘wore all the major hats’ in running ‘Little House’

Butler recalled starting out on the well-established historical drama and noted how Landon was in charge of every aspect of Little House in addition to playing patriarch Charles Ingalls.

“The show was a huge hit and there was really no pressure on me at all,” the Little House alum told Daily Planet. “Michael Landon was the star, the writer, the director and the executive producer, so all of this was on him and all of the rest of the cast who had established themselves as really popular staples in American television. I really got to ride on their coattails coming in.”

Though he was given a major role in his first season on the cast, Butler knew Landon carried the main load of responsibilities.

“The reality was, Michael was such a consummate professional and so good at what he was doing and so in command that really nobody had anything to worry about but him,” he remarked. “He had it all in his hands and he wore all the major hats in the show.”

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‘Little House’ creator was ‘great’ yet ‘detached’

Butler was a new actor when he landed the high-profile role of Almanzo, yet he didn’t get any sort of step-by-step training on the set from Landon due to his hectic schedule. Still, the Bonanza alum made time when it was necessary.

“The reality of it was, he had a huge job to do,” Butler explained. “He didn’t have time for a lot of hand holding – He would hold your hand if you needed it, but he really wanted the actors to come in and deliver the goods. He had a schedule to shoot and airdates to make. As a new, young actor, I probably would have liked a little more care given, but on the other hand, you have to realize, when I needed direction, he gave it to me.”

Landon was known for his affable nature and down-to-earth persona, but he had to distance himself from the cast in order to deliver such a quality product. Butler shared how the closeness of cast members stopped at a certain point since they all had a job to do.

“He just didn’t have time to be your pal,” Butler said of Landon. “I would say in all honesty, he wasn’t anyone’s pal. He was great with everybody but in a detached kind of way because he just didn’t have the time. If you were in a scene with him, you got his undivided attention. I think everyone wanted to be pals with ‘Michael Landon’ but there just wasn’t time for that. We were all like family but a family of cousins. There was a little distance between us, but we were still associated with each other.”

Dean Butler commented on Michael Landon’s star power

Landon’s longevity in show business wasn’t lost on Butler, who commented on the superstar’s continued celebrity status after decades in the spotlight.

“Michael had already spent 20 years of his life in primetime when I met him,” the former Little House start said. “Michael was just as big a star as there was in television at that time and as powerful of one as there was in terms of being able to influence what was going on around him.”

He added his appreciation for being a part of such a notable legacy. “If I’m remembered as being part of this beautiful program that celebrates family, community and overcoming hard times, that is a tremendous legacy to have,” Butler raved. “I just couldn’t be more grateful.” 

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