Melissa Gilbert was cast as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie when she was 9 years old. She played the part for eight years. Throughout her time on the show, Gilbert encountered all sorts of fans — some more intense than others.
The first ‘Little House on the Prairie’ fan interaction that really struck Melissa Gilbert
One time, when Gilbert was just barely a teenager, she was tasked with watching her younger sister while she and her family were at the airport. Sara, Gilbert’s younger sister, had been acting out the entire plane ride and hadn’t settled down once they landed. While Gilbert was trying to wrangle her toddler sister, a fan approached her for an autograph.
“I wasn’t big; Sara was already half my size,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale. “As I tried to hold her in my arms, with our backs arching and my head dodging her flailing hands, a woman came up to me and asked if I was Melissa Gilbert.”
Gilbert told her she was and the woman went on to say: “Oh gosh, my daughter loves you. Can I get your autograph?”
Gilbert told the woman that she’d couldn’t.
“I struggled to hold my sister, who was trying to wiggle out of my grasp,” she wrote.
In response, the woman hissed: “Oh, what a little brat you are.”
The interaction stuck with Gilbert for weeks. It made her realize that, as a celebrity, she was held to a different standard than everyone else.
The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ crew protected Melissa Gilbert from ‘weird, crazy stalkers’
In addition to the frequent autographs and regular fan craze, Gilbert also experienced some unsettling fans.
“I’d grown up with some safety concerns, mostly as a result of crazies obsessed with Little House who wanted to take me away to some cave because they thought I was the second coming,” she wrote.
On an episode of her podcast, Gilbert and Busfield, the former Little House actor said she learned of the severity of the threats against her when she was much older.
“Everybody was watching me very closely,” she said. “I had virtually no freedom. I didn’t know this at the time but there were so many people writing kidnapping threats and stuff and so many weird, crazy stalkers that they kept from me. That’s why I was rarely alone and watched over constantly.”
Melissa Gilbert on her ‘Little House on the Prairie’ fame
While starring in a hit TV show for eight years awarded Gilbert with countless incredible opportunities throughout her life, being famous comes with its fair share of disadvantages.
“People think of being famous as being fantastic, wonderful and there are a myriad of advantages to being well known and being recognizable,” she said on the podcast. “That is, if you are successful in this business, that is ultimately what you have to do and what you become. It does open a lot of doors but there are a lot of things that close down and get really small.”