‘Little House On The Prairie’ Star Charlotte Stewart Struggled With Addiction After Leaving the Show: ‘I Had No Off Switch’
Little House on the Prairie remains a family favorite despite going off the air in 1983. Based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the series featured life in the small town of Walnut Grove during the late 1800s. Bonanza star Michael Landon created the show, and also served as executive producer and star.
Landon assembled a cast of actors from varying backgrounds, recruiting Charlotte Stewart to play the school teacher of their small town. Stewart revealed she fell on some hard times after leaving the show.
Charlotte Stewart based Miss Beadle on 2 people
Stewart portrayed Walnut Grove teacher Eva Beadle for the first four seasons of Little House on the Prairie. While Miss Beadle had a strong presence in the series, there was little mention of her in Wilder’s stories.
“In the books that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote, there’s only one mention of Miss Beadle when they moved to Walnut Grove and had school for the first time,” Stewart told Smashing Interviews in 2016. “Most of the character of Miss Beadle came from Michael Landon, and my portrayal that was based on my sister because I had nothing to go on. There was no description other than ‘she’s pretty’ and ‘she smells good.’”
Stewart commented on the show’s continued success in syndication, even though Little House on the Prairie aired its final episode decades ago.
“People have grown up with it,” Stewart said of the historical drama. “Women have especially, although I have met men that say they watched it with their moms and grandmas. … Now they’ve got children and grandchildren, and they’re bringing them along because it’s such a good family show. I hear the same thing about The Waltons. It was a good family show with good values.”
‘Little House’ star’s small home town offered little leisure opportunities
Openly sharing her struggles with drugs and alcohol, Stewart previously commented on growing up in a party-like atmosphere which fueled her parents’ drinking.
“I’m pretty sure it’s a hereditary disease,” she said of alcoholism. “Drinking was so accepted in the 1950s. There were all the cocktail parties. My parents were functioning alcoholics. They didn’t beat me. They didn’t crash cars or anything.”
Describing her home town as uneventful, Stewart attributed the frequent residential festivities to the lack of options nearby.
“We came from a small farm town, and there was one movie theater,” the Little House alum explained. “The only entertainment was cocktail parties. People would dress up on weekends and go drink their highballs. It was perfectly accepted.”
Life after ‘Little House’ was a ‘horrible time’ for Charlotte Stewart
As Stewart got older, her own addictive tendencies began to materialize to the point where she was unable to set boundaries for herself.
“I didn’t realize that I had a problem until much later in my life,” she said. “I just couldn’t control it. I had no off switch.”
After leaving Little House at the end of season 4, Stewart described a serious rough patch in her life which included an unethical business manager.
“That was a really horrible time for me,” she told Star Tribune. “In the early ’80s, my business manager had managed to put a lot of my money up his nose and I wasn’t getting jobs. I was spending too much time playing. People were trying to help me, but I didn’t want to hear what they were saying. That’s common with addicts.”
Now married to Michael Santos since 2015, Stewart noted the valuable support she had from those who were faithfully by her side through the tough times.
“I’m grateful that I had friends and family that hung in there with me,” she said. “I had some sense to listen to them.”
How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.