‘Little House on the Prairie’s Nellie Olsen Actor Said Her 1st Impression of Co-Star Melissa Sue Anderson Was ‘Oh Crap’
As far as legendary show casts go, Little House on the Prairie seems to have had a tight-knit family of a group of actors.
However, skirmishes and frictions in the cast did exist, according to Nellie Oleson actor Alison Arngrim.
The actor who played one of television’s most famous bullies described her failed attempts at befriending co-star Melissa Sue Anderson. She knew from the moment she met Anderson that things would not go well between them.
Melissa Gilbert warned Alison Arngrim
Arngrim joked in her 2010 memoir Confessions of a Prairie B*tch that while she tried out for the roles of Laura and Mary Ingalls and was rejected, the show’s producers hired her almost on the spot for the part of the hateful Nellie Oleson.
And as hateful as the character of Nellie was, it was a real-life actor on the show’s set that she was warned not to trifle with. Arngrim described how her co-star Melissa Gilbert made clear to her from the start that one of their cast mates was trouble.
“[Gilbert] marched right in and introduced herself and began explaining things to us: who was who, who did what, how everything worked,” Arngrim said.
“Then came her stern warning, delivered with the intensity of Edward G. Robinson, in the vocal range of Shirley Temple: ‘And whatever you do, you watch out for that Melissa Sue Anderson. She’s very dangerous. She’s evil, and I hate her.’”
Arngrim’s 1st impression of Melissa Sue Anderson
The Nellie Oleson actor and her aunt, who cared for the child actor while on set, didn’t want to believe what Gilbert was reporting. They preferred to think her words were the rantings of an excitable 9-year-old.
“[Anderson] didn’t look like a ‘killer.’ She looked like, well, a little girl,” Arngrim wrote. “Her hair was not mixed dishwater blond like mine; it was perfect, shining, yellow-white blond, like a Breck commercial. She was spectacular.
“‘Oh crap,’ I thought. Girls like this always hated me. As if on cue, Melissa Sue Anderson turned to look at me, her huge, round blue eyes narrowing to slits.”
Anderson and Arngrim did not become friends at all
Arngrim, however, soon discovered that Gilbert’s assessment of Anderson had a grain of truth to it.
Hoping to befriend the Mary Ingalls actor who seemed to stay at arm’s length from the rest of the cast, Arngrim saw that she had a backgammon set with her and took the risk of asking Anderson for a game.
“I didn’t know how to play at all and thought this might be my opportunity to finally break through her impenetrable shell. I marched up to her and expressed interest in the game. She looked bored,” Arngrim said.
Arngrim let Anderson know from the get-go that she wasn’t familiar with the game.
“I said I didn’t know how to play and asked if it was difficult,” she said. “She looked at me in utter disgust and said, ‘No, it figures you wouldn’t know how. You’ve always been a tad backwards.”
Arngrim assumed Anderson was joking and laughed but noticed that her co-star “wasn’t laughing” and, in fact, was intent on insulting her.
“‘No,’ Anderson continued coldly, ‘actually, I’d say you’re a lot backwards. In fact, you’re quite stupid.’
“Ah. So apparently she didn’t feel like teaching me to play backgammon.”
From that point on, Arngrim discovered she could take Melissa Gilbert’s word for it when she warned her in the future.