‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert Recalls the ‘Trauma’ She Experienced on Set

Melissa Gilbert still dreams of her time on set while filming Little House On The Prairie. The “Half-Pint” actor describes her experience on the TV series as something out of a fairytale, and she loved going to work every day with her “family” of cast members.

But despite how much she cherished her behind the scenes adventures, Gilbert admits that she experienced a moment of trauma while creating the wholesome series. 

Little House on the Prairie
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls, Charlotte Stewart as Eva Beadle | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

How old was Melissa Gilbert when she landed her role in ‘Little House on The Prairie’? 

Gilbert was only nine years old when she first auditioned for her starring role in Little House on The PrairieAnd during the audition, she got to read with Michael Landon, who she instantly adored. 

“I read for him in a room at Paramount Studios,” she writes in her memoir titled Prairie Tale. “I remember thinking, Oh gosh, he’s really handsome. He gave off a different kind of energy than ordinary people. It was a higher wattage.”

Little House on the Prairie
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder | Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank

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In her memoir, Gilbert talks about when she first found out she was cast in Little House on the Prairie. According to the actor, she found out from Michael Landon’s daughter while they were at school together.

“I screamed and ran to the office where there was a phone available for students to use in an emergency,” Gilbert writes. “I called home and told my mom what had happened. As I did, I felt like booster rockets had ignited under me, and I was about to blast off into some exciting, new, uncharted world.”

Melissa Gilbert recalls ‘the only trauma’ she experienced on the ‘Little House On The Prairie’ set

Little House on the Prairie
Director Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Image

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In Gilbert’s memoir, she opens up about how difficult her home life was compared to Little House On The Prairie. The actor reveals that she came from a broken family filled with lies and deceit.

And although her parents loved her very much, she was taught not to show her emotions. But while on set, it was almost fantasy-like because Gilbert was finally allowed to express herself. Plus, she came to love all her cast mates and crew members.

“I liked everyone, really,” Gilbert says of her co-stars and crew members on Little House. “They were all nice. Who wouldn’t like being around people who showered you with affection and always had a kind word, a joke, or a funny face? Compared to the real world, it was like make-believe.”

Little House on the Prairie
‘At the End of the Rainbow’ Episode 10 of ‘Little House On The Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

So when Gilbert was forced to return to her real life, off-set, she found it to be a traumatic experience. 

“The only trauma on the Little House set came at the end of January, almost four weeks after we began shooting when it was time to pack up and say good-bye,” Gilbert writes. “I had a hard time returning home.”

Melissa Gilbert missed everyone from the ‘Little House On The Prairie’ set

Little House on the Prairie
Little House on the Prairie | Bud Gray/NBCU Photo Bank

Gilbert felt miserable when she returned home, greatly missing the little family she had made behind the scenes. She reveals in her memoir,

“I missed the work and the affirmation that came from it. I especially missed the attachments I’d made to people, and I was down in the dumps whenever I Imagined not seeing them again.