‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Sue Anderson Once Said She Wanted To Leave the Show When the Storylines Became ‘Too Soap Opera-Ish’

Melissa Sue Anderson landed the role of Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie in 1974. The 1800s family drama would last until it premiered its final episode in 1984. However, Anderson didn’t remain on the show throughout its entire run. She left the series for good in 1983 after eight seasons. 

In 2010, Anderson shared how she felt about her final years on Little House on the Prairie

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- "Author! Author!" Episode 11 -- Aired 11/26/79 -- Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls Kendall, Linwood Boomer as Adam Kendall
Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls Kendall, Linwood Boomer as Adam Kendall| Bruce Bermilen/NBCU Photo Bank

Melissa Sue Anderson’s character went blind on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ 

Little House on the Prairie star and creator Michael Landon chose Anderson to play the eldest Ingalls sister. According to Anderson’s memoir, The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House, Landon made sure to utilize her talents as soon as the show began. 

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In season 4, Anderson’s character went blind. While her performance earned her an Emmy nomination for Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1978, she didn’t feel fulfilled with Mary. During her 2010 interview with AJC Blog, Anderson said that playing a blind person in the 1870s didn’t offer her much range. 

“It wasn’t just the blind issue but also the period of the show,” Anderson said about her experience. “It was very limiting what you could or couldn’t do. I used to say I was blind and boring.”

Melissa Sue Anderson became fed up with her ‘soap opera-ish’ storylines

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Although Mary’s blindness gained Anderson plenty of attention, it would soon lead to her exiting the show for good. As the show progressed, Mary faced many obstacles, like losing a baby in a fire. Anderson said she felt like her character only dealt with traumatic situations toward the end of her run. 

“Either I was just there not doing much or going through some tragedy,” she said. “I couldn’t take it anymore. It became too soap opera-ish.”

In 1981, Anderson left Little House on the Prairie. While she was able to work on shows like The Love Boat in addition to her day job, she yearned for more opportunities. Anderson told People that the writers on Little House weren’t giving her enough material to work with, and she was ready to branch out. 

“It’s no fun,” Anderson said of her character’s storylines. “When they run low on story ideas, someone says, ‘What can we do to Melissa Sue that’s really awful?’” 

Melissa Sue Anderson stopped acting

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After she made her exit on Little House on the Prairie, Anderson continued to act for several years. In the late 1980s, Anderson played Yvette Marcel in the CBS drama, The Equalizer. However, she decided to focus on her personal life in 1991 when she married TV writer Michael Sloan. She and Sloan had two children-Piper and Griffin-before they moved to Montreal in 2002. 

While she no longer acts, Anderson gave her fans an inside look at her Little House experience in 2010. Through her memoir, Anderson wrote synopses of popular episodes from the series to connect with her fans. 

“I want the fans to feel like they were right on the set with me,” she said.