‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Sue Anderson Worried Her Character Would Be Written Out of the Show

Little House on the Prairie is a classic TV show based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. The TV series began in 1974 and ended in 1983. The show starred Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, and Melissa Sue Anderson. At one point during the series, Anderson worried her character would be written out of Little House on the Prairie.

Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson
Michael Landon and Melissa Sue Anderson | Photo by Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Who did Melissa Sue Anderson play on ‘Little House on the Prairie’?

Little House on the Prairie focused on the Ingalls family and their life on a farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Landon portrayed Charles Ingalls, Grassle played Caroline Quiner Ingalls, Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anderson portrayed Mary Ingalls Kendall, and identical twin sisters Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush portrayed Carrie Ingalls.

Over the seasons, the Ingalls family expanded. Grace Ingalls, who was portrayed by Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh, was born in the fifth season of Little House on the Prairie. The Ingalls family also adopted Albert (Matthew Labyorteaux), Cassandra (Melissa Francis), and James (Jason Bateman).

Melissa Sue Anderson worried her character would be written out of the show

With Laura being the main protagonist of the series, a majority of the episodes focused on her. However, Laura’s older sister Mary had a number of compelling storylines. In the fourth season, Mary goes blind.

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When this change occurred, Anderson reportedly worried that her character would be written out of the show. In addition to playing her father on the show, Landon was an executive producer, writer, and director. He worked hard to reassure Anderson her role was not going anywhere.

“I told her to trust me,” Landon told People.

She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her ‘Little House on the Prairie’ role

It turns out that trusting Landon paid off for Anderson. She was nominated for a 1978 Emmy Award for Best Leading Actress in a Drama Series for her compelling work on Little House on the Prairie.

“I went to the Foundation for the Junior Blind, for specific instructions on how a young person adjusts to recent blindness,” Anderson told the Albany Daily News. “It was the only time in the history of television that a series regular had lost their sight and not gotten it back… ever. Therefore, it was exciting and challenging at the beginning… but a very difficult thing to sustain over a period of years.”

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Despite being nominated for an Emmy Award, Anderson eventually chose to leave the show.

“As far as what Mary could do, my character became limited because she couldn’t see… This, ultimately, is the reason why I decided not to stay with the show and only do three episodes in the eighth season,” she said.

In the ninth season, the show was renamed Little House: A New Beginning following the departure of Landon and Grassle as series regulars.