‘Little House on the Prairie’: This Person Was the ‘Secret Weapon’ Behind the Show According to Karen Grassle—and It Wasn’t Michael Landon
Little House on the Prairie star Karen Grassle opened up about her experiences while filming the show. She grew close to many cast and crew members. She says one person was so valuable to the series that she considered this person the show’s “secret weapon.” Here’s what she revealed.
‘Little House on the Prairie’
Little House on the Prairie aired from 1974 to 1983. The series told the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (played by Melissa Gilbert) and her family. Viewers fell in love with the characters and the series quicky became a hit. Michael Landon played Charles Ingalls, Grassle played Caroline Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson played Mary Ingalls, and Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush played Carrie Ingalls.
Karen Grassle says this person was the ‘secret weapon’ behind ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In her book Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, Grassle says there was one person who served as the “secret weapon” behind Little House on the Prairie. She revealed that person was the late production manager Kent McCray.
According to Grassle, McCray managed the scheduling, equipment, and budget for the show. He had a lot of responsibility but seemed to balance everything effortlessly. Grassle says “all of it worked beautifully” under McCray’s direction. She adds that he was one of the people she relied on during the early days of Little House. “I counted on him, depended on him, and knew if I had an issue with anything, I could take it to Kent,” writes Grassle.
Karen Grassle was impressed with Kent McCray’s work ethic
Grassle says McCray would assist with a task even when it was outside his job description. In her book, she described an incident where one of the trucks got stuck in the mud after heavy rain. Grassle says McCray jumped in and helped the crew free the truck from the mud. According to her, McCray approached the situation as just a problem to be solved as soon as possible.” She says he had “none of that ‘not my job’ attitude.”
McCray was proud of the work he did on Little House on the Prairie. In his book, Kent McCray: The Man Behind the Most Beloved Television Shows, he discusses his time on the series. McCray was excited about how well the show was received by audiences. He says the pilot tested higher than any other NBC show at the time. As a result, NBC immediately picked up Little House on the Prairie. McCray says he knew right away the series was special, but he never guessed the show would become as popular as it did.
Kent McCray’s movies and TV shows
McCray worked for NBC for more than 40 years. One of his first assignments as a production manager was in a 1956 episode of The Bob Hope Show. From 1967 to 1971, McCray worked as a production manager for the television series The High Chapparal.
McCray went on to manage the production of Bonanza from 1962 to 1973. In addition to Little House on the Prairie, some of his other projects include Barnaby Jones, Highway to Heaven, Where Pigeons Go to Die, and Us, which featured Landon in his final role. Pistol Pete was McCray’s last production management project before his death in 2018.
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