‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Said Show Producers ‘Weren’t Into Writing for Women’

Karen Grassle starred as Caroline Ingalls on the historical drama Little House on the Prairie alongside Michael Landon. Created in 1974 by the Bonanza alum, Landon took on the lead role of Charles Ingalls and brought along some of his pals from the western to collaborate on Little House. Grassle shared how she began giving her opinion on dialogue for her character since there were no women writers on the show in the early seasons.

Karen Grassle and Michael Landon of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Karen Grassle and Michael Landon of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Karen Grassle helped broaden character of Caroline Ingalls

Grassle portrayed a farmer’s wife with small children living during the challenges of the late 1800s. Rather than just having Caroline appear at the dinner table or fetching coffee, she offered Landon suggestions on how to show a deeper side of her character.

“Frequently, I had an idea and it wasn’t [Landon’s] idea,” Grassle told Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “So I was thrilled when during the first season, he began to respond to some of my suggestions about Caroline and ways that she might behave that were a little different than the idealized mother, just to try to give her a little more texture.”

The Little House alum explained that in the early seasons of the NBC series, the writers were men from Landon’s previous western drama and were more accustomed to writing for their own gender.

“These guys were from Bonanza,” Grassle remarked. “They were cowboys. … They weren’t into writing for women. But later they did hire some women writers who did give us more depth.”

RELATED: Why ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Karen Grassle Changed Her Mind on Leaving the Show: ‘I Wept – They Had Me’

‘Little House’ alum decided to ‘shift’ her focus after the series ended

In March 1983, fans saw the finale of the series in the TV movie Little House: The Last Farewell. Grassle revealed she found herself being typecast when her role of Caroline came to an end, yet was also looking to make some changes in her personal life.

“When the series was over, the first scripts that were sent to my agent all had a bun,” Grassle shared. “My life changed over time, so I became less concerned with whether Hollywood was typecasting me and more concerned with having my own family, so that was the shift.”

Grassle left Los Angeles and focused on her son, Zach, and trying her hand as an author. The lack of a demanding production schedule provided her with the freedom to explore her own story.

“When I first moved here, back here to the Bay Area, I had left a lot of my friends and activities behind in L.A.,” she explained to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. “I had a lot of time on my hands and a lot of solitude. I think also, because I was getting older, memories just began to rise up and grab my attention. And so I thought, Well, I’m going to start writing these down. And if nobody else is interested, at least my son will probably be interested.”

Karen Grassle released her memoir in 2021

Grassle’s memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, hit bookshelves in November 2021. While she expressed concern that Little House fans may feel “let down” that she revealed both the positive and negative sides to her life on the show and behind the scenes, Grassle emphasized that her intention was transparency and honesty rather than putting any blemish on the beloved NBC series’ legacy. She is now working on more projects to publish.

“I started without really even knowing I was going to write a book,” she said. “Then I took some classes and I began to really focus on memoir as a form. I’m wondering what I’m going to write next because I have gotten very much into the habit of writing and very interested in writing.”

Bright Lights, Prairie Dust is now on sale.

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