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Michael Landon created Little House on the Prairie in the 1970s. Fresh off his time on Bonanza, Landon wanted to show the Ingalls family’s lives in the 1800s. As an executive producer, Landon selected Karen Grassle to play Caroline Ingalls, also known as “Ma.” 

In a 2015 interview, Grassle reflected on working with Landon. She also chatted about her exit from Little House on the Prairie, which occurred in 1982. 

Pictured: (l-r) Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls -
Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls, Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls|NBCU Photo Bank

Karen Grassle described Michael Landon as ‘moody’ when they filmed ‘Little House on the Prairie’ together

Before she booked the role of Caroline, Grassle had a background in theater. After earning two degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, Grassle moved to London to hone her craft. Grassle worked for a Shakespeare company in England for a year when she moved back to the states. Soon after she moved to Los Angeles, Grassle took an interview with Landon. Shortly after that, Grassle played alongside Landon as the parents of three children. 

"Author! Author!" Episode 11 -- Aired 11/26/79 -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls
Michael Landon as Charles Philip Ingalls, Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Holbrook Ingalls| Bruce Bermilen/NBCU Photo Bank

In 2015, Grassle spoke to Closer Weekly about her time with Landon. Grassle said Landon would get “moody” on set, which would affect the cast. According to Grassle, Landon’s unpredictable behavior resulted from him being both the executive producer and star of Little House on the Prairie

“He could be quite moody,” Grassle remembered of Landon. “He had a lot on his shoulders that first year. [Landon] had a falling-out with a producer very early on, so he was the only captain.”

Karen Grassle said her ‘Little House on the Prairie’ co-star, Michael Landon, was a ‘complicated character’ 

During her Closer interview, Grassle further expanded on Landon’s “moody” actions on set. Although Grassle recalled Landon having a bad attitude due to the stress of working on Little House on the Prairie, there were bright moments as well. 

“He was constantly trying to make the crew laugh and make everybody happy,” Grassle said. 

Grassle also called her on-screen husband a “hard worker” and genuinely “loved his crew.” However, Grassle said Landon didn’t support her when she asked for a bump in her salary once the show took off. 

“Prodigiously talented. A complicated character from a dysfunctional family who loved his crew,’ Grassle said when asked to describe Landon. “But when the show was in the top 10, and I said, “Gee, it is time to renegotiate my contract,” Michael did not want to pay me. It was very difficult.” 

Karen Grassle and Michael Landon ‘didn’t always get along’ on ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ according to Charlotte Stewart


‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Was ‘Flat Broke’ Before She Booked ‘Caroline Ingalls’

In 2016, actor Charlotte Stewart released a memoir about her time on Little House on the Prairie. Stewart played Walnut Grove school teacher Eva Beadle during the series and worked closely with Grassle and Landon. She wrote that Landon and Grassle bumped heads in real life. Nonetheless, the actors never allowed Little House on the Prairie’s audience to see their tension. 

“She and Mike always had excellent chemistry on-screen,” Stewart recalled in her book. “Unfortunately, in real life, Karen and Mike didn’t always get along. He would tease her without mercy for being serious-minded, and I think she got tired of not only his joking around but of the easy-breezy approach he took to acting in general.”

Grassle left Little House on the Prairie in 1982. After a significant drop in ratings, the show shifted its focus to the younger characters. The actor would return to the show for a few guest spots. Following her exit, Grassle eventually returned to the theatre.