‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Bonded With Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson in the Sweetest Way

Karen Grassle, former star of Little House on the Prairie, made time to get to know her co-stars. She thought it was important to nurture her working relationships, especially with the actors who played her family members. Here’s the sweet way Grassle bonded with Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson.

The sweet way Karen Grassle bonded with her TV daughters

Melissa Sue Anderson and Melissa Gilbert sit in a wagon on the set of 'Little House on the Prairie.'
Melissa Sue Anderson and Melissa Gilbert | NBCU Photo Bank

In her book, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, Grassle says she wanted to form a bond with the young actors who played her children because she would be working closely with them. She says there were scenes where she had to walk down the dirt road with Gilbert, Anderson, and the actors who played Carrie (twins were hired to play Carrie’s part since they were so young and couldn’t work a full day). These scenes were shot at a distance and didn’t have dialogue, so they weren’t required to wear a microphone.

Grassle used these moments to get closer to her young co-stars. She says she used that time to “develop an intimacy.” The Caroline Ingalls star drew on the closeness she felt with her mother when she was a child. She recalled the “quiet connections” they shared while her mother made dinner.

Grassle shared stories about her childhood so she could build a connection. “Over the years, the bond the girls and I forged through our work and our off-camera times became so strong, it has lasted all these years,” wrote Grassle.

Karen Grassle says her relationship with Melissa Sue Anderson became strained

Although Grassle was close to her TV children, she says there was a time when Anderson “withdrew” from her. She wrote about the time she had a contract dispute and Michael Landon, who was one of the producers. Grassle’s dispute caused some people to distance themselves from her, including Anderson. They used to spend time between scenes playing backgammon, but things began to cool between them.

Grassle says it’s not uncommon for people to ostracize the “hen-pecked.” She says she developed a reputation for “changing” and being “difficult.”

Karen Grassle tried to make the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ cast and crew feel welcome

Grassle tried to get to know the Little House on the Prairie cast members. She says she tried to treat everyone equally regardless of their role in the cast or crew. In her book, she says she felt it was important to welcome the new cast members and make them comfortable since she was the show’s “leading lady.” Grassle believed it was her responsibility.

Grassle became close friends with actor Katherine MacGregor, who played Mrs. Oleson. She says she and MacGregor “hit it off” right away. They both took their work seriously and liked to rehearse. One co-star she didn’t get to know well was Richard Bull, who played Mr. Oleson. Grassle says he was an “introvert” who kept to himself.

RELATED: ‘Little House on the Prairie’: This Cast Member Was ‘Gentlemanly’ and ‘Had a Light Touch’ Says Karen Grassle

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