Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert starred in Little House on the Prairie together. Landon played Charles Ingalls, and he was also a writer, director, and executive producer on the show. Gilbert played Charles’ daughter Laura Ingalls Wilder, the central character of Little House on the Prairie.
On set, Landon acted as a father figure to Gilbert and the other child actors. Landon had a huge influence on Gilbert growing up. While Landon frequently drank alcohol on the set of Little House on the Prairie, Gilbert admitted she never actually saw him act drunk.
Melissa Gilbert grew up playing Laura on ‘Little House on the Prairie‘
Gilbert was only 10 years old when Little House on the Prairie premiered, and she was 18 years old when it ended. The actress published a memoir about her life after the show called Prairie Tale: A Memoir in 2009.
Around the time of the memoir’s release, Gilbert spoke to Today‘s Erin Burnett about the book and Little House on the Prairie.
“By child-actor standards, mine was probably the best experience that you could have… I was the opposite of what you would expect a child star to be,” Gilbert told Burnett. “I was a total dork. I was the girl in the one-piece bathing suit with cotton pajamas over it and a hat, eating a baloney sandwich with mayonnaise dripping down my hand, and I was like 15 years old at that point.”
Melissa Gilbert never saw Michael Landon drunk
In her memoir, Gilbert disclosed that she began experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a young age. She also acknowledged that Landon influenced her in ways she did not realize at the time.
“I’ve realized his influence on me extended beyond the set,” she wrote according to Today. “As a kid, I didn’t know he sipped vodka from his coffee mug… but I’m sure he’s one reason why, as a young adult, I almost always picked men who smelled like alcohol.”
While speaking with Burnett for Today, Gilbert compared herself to Landon.
“To his credit, I never saw him get drunk, I never saw his personality change. He didn’t have that switch,” Gilbert said. “I did later on when I began drinking. I would reach a point where that switch would flip and my personality would change — but Michael was able to maintain no matter what.”
Melissa Gilbert has no regrets after ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Landon died in 1991, and to this day Gilbert still has massive amounts of respect for him.
“He was an amazing man, an amazing talent, an incredible director, actor, writer, a great boss, an incredible human being,” she said.
While Gilbert led an intense life after her time as Laura on Little House on the Prairie, she does not have any regrets.
“Everything, no matter how painful, led me to this place I am right now, which is really an amazing place to be,” Gilbert told Burnett. “I have a really peaceful, happy life. I have these great, confident kids. I’m married to a man I’m absolutely crazy about, who cherishes me. It’s a real gift.”