- Little House on the Prairie star Karen Grassle had a good impression of her co-star Michael Landon.
- Grassle claims fans will be shocked when they find out what was really going on behind the scenes of the wholesome series.
- Ma Ingalls herself recalls one particular “awful” moment where she was “trapped” in a bed with Landon when he began to tell jokes that she claims were meant to “humiliate” her.
Little House on the Prairie made Karen Grassle a TV star when she played Caroline “Ma” Ingalls for nine seasons. But in her new book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love From Little House’s Ma, Grassle says fans would be shocked about what was going on behind the scenes of the wholesome series.
The 79-year-old actor recalled one moment with her on-screen husband Michael Landon (Charles “Pa” Ingalls) that was just “awful, awful, awful.”
Karen Grassle had a good first impression of her ‘Little House on the Prairie’ co-star
Grassle was an unknown actor in Hollywood when she auditioned for the part of Caroline. She told Fox News that she was “so broke and discouraged” before landing the role that she considered changing careers. However, she admits that she wasn’t impressed with the part when she first read the Little House pilot script.
“When I first read the script, I thought, ‘Oh, she’s kind of a downer. She’s prudish,'” Grassle recalled.
However, her first impression of her soon-to-be TV husband was quite positive. Grassle says when she first saw Landon in person she thought “wow, he’s really handsome.”
“He was also tremendously charismatic with great energy. And he was very sensitive in the audition reading we did together.”
Karen Grassle’s relationship with Michael Landon changed after she asked for a raise
Grassle says that the first season of Little House was a good experience. But, things changed in season 2 when the show became a hit and she asked for a raise. Grassle explained that Landon turned her down, which came as a surprise.
“I was shocked because based on the ratings, our good relationship and what my agent had told me, I thought it was a fait accompli,” she told Closer Weekly.
To make matters worse, Grassle says that Landon turned against her after she asked for more money. She said he started cutting her scenes and making crude jokes about her.
“He started this campaign on the set, to try to sort of break me down and diminish my value to the show,” she remembers.
The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ star recalls one ‘awful, awful, awful’ moment
Grassle says that the worst incident from the Little House on the Prairie set came during a scene when she and Landon were shooting in the Ingalls small bedroom. She said that crew was crowded around the bed, and Landon started making jokes about the smell of a woman’s private parts after sex.
“I think they were intended to humiliate me, because we were trapped there in this tiny room, in this bed with all the men standing around. We couldn’t get out of there between shots because it was so crowded. So there I sat in my little nightie, you know, hearing these filthy jokes. I mean, it was awful, awful, awful,” she says.
Karen Grassle realized during the #MeToo movement that she was the victim of sexual harassment
Grassle explained that it was extremely difficult for her on set in that moment — feeling so uncomfortable, but knowing she couldn’t defend herself. She said that if she would have tried to speak up, more humiliation would have followed.
“We had been trained, as girls, to rise above all the bad-boy behavior and be quiet and get on with it. And that was what I did,” she says.
It wasn’t until the #MeToo movement gained steam in 2017 that Grassle called a friend, shared her story, and realized she was a victim of sexual harassment.
“The most important thing that I learned was forgiveness,” she says. “It frees me of the bad feelings.”
Michael Landon reached out to his ‘Little House on the Prairie’ co-star before his death
Landon passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1991. Before he died, Grassle says he reached out and they had “a nice conversation” over the phone. She didn’t know at the time that he was sick. But that really didn’t matter because they were able to mend their fences.
“We both chose to let bygones be bygones without actually having the conversation. But that meant so much to me,” Grassle said. “I just felt there was a lot of forgiveness from both sides. We were remembering the better parts of our relationship. And I was so grateful for that.”
All nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie are available on Peacock.