Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983 and followed the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert). In the ninth season, Little House on the Prairie was renamed Little House: A New Beginning to focus on Laura and her relationship with Almanzo Wilder (Dean Butler). During the filming of one scene between Laura and Almanzo, Gilbert’s mother cried off camera.
Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler’s age difference caused issues
When Gilbert’s character Laura began to fall for Almanzo, Gilbert was only 15 years old while Butler was already in his 20s. Because of their age difference, Gilbert found scenes with Butler to be incredibly nerve-wracking.
“I look back now and watch episodes from when I was 15 or 16 and go, ‘Whoa—there’s an awkward stage.’ [When Almanzo, played by Dean Butler, was introduced], it was the third time I had ever kissed a boy—and all three times were on TV,” Gilbert told Entertainment Weekly. “I was kissing a man who had to shave that morning, and I hadn’t even ever shaved my legs. It’s bizarre. I mean, he was a grown-up person with a car. He golfed!”
Butler himself admitted that filming the show was “challenging” at times because of their age difference.
“It was challenging. And Melissa was being watched very closely by everybody on set—she’d grown up around these people,” he said. “She had to take on this relationship with no experience. She is one of the most fearless people I’ve ever known. She has that quality today, and she had it in spades as a 15-year-old girl.”
Melissa Gilbert’s mother cried on the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ set
While visiting Manitowoc County Historical Society’s Historic Pinecrest Village, Butler shared some behind-the-scenes stories about Little House on the Prairie and the Herald Times Reporter covered the event. Butler acknowledged that his character was not exactly welcome with fans at first.
“My first episode in season six was the introduction of Almanzo,” he said. “It signified that Laura would grow up, and some people did not like that.”
In the episode titled “Sweet Sixteen,” Laura and Almanzo share a kiss. Butler revealed that Gilbert’s mother cried during the filming of the scene.
“She ruined three takes and had to be consoled,” Butler said. “I’m not sure if she was crying because her daughter was getting a kiss, or if that she was upset it was me Melissa was kissing.”
Melissa Gilbert on the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ scene
While appearing on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, Butler and Gilbert shared the story of Gilbert’s mother crying on set together. Gilbert acknowledged that even without her mother crying, she was “terrified” about the kissing scene.
“But not nearly as nervous as her mother was on set, wailing in the background,” Butler said.
“Sobbing out loud, which did not help,” Gilbert seconded.
For some time, Gilbert and Butler struggled to make the relationship between their characters work on screen. Producers of the show worried the lack of chemistry would be noticeable to fans and sent out a memo wondering what could be done to help the actors.