The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ TV Series Exists Because of Michael Landon’s Daughter
Little House on the Prairie premiered on NBC in 1974 and ultimately became even more than just a hit show.
It became a cultural phenomenon.
And it was, in large part, due to Michael Landon’s daughter, Leslie. Here’s why.
An NBC producer asked Michael Landon to join the ‘Little House’ cast
Little House producer Kent McCray recalled in a conversation with the Archive of American Television in 2017 how the idea for the show set in 1800s Minnesota landed on Michael Landon’s desk.
“[Ed Friendly and Michael Landon] were both executive producers. Ed Friendly had bought the show. He had paid for the pilot to be written,” McCray explained.
“In 1974, Ed Friendly came to NBC with the package of Little House on the Prairie. They knew Michael wanted to act and they also knew that he wanted to produce, so they went to Michael and offered him the part of Pa Ingalls on Little House and he would also be executive producer with Ed Friendly.”
Landon’s daughter Leslie gave the show her thumbs up
McCray shared in his interview that a huge share of the credit for the show being undertaken at all was because of Landon’s daughter Leslie.
“I think it was Michael’s daughter Leslie who convinced Michael to do the show,” he said. “Because they were sitting down to dinner one night and he said, ‘I think I’m going to do a show called Little House on the Prairie.’ And she said, ‘I’ve read all those books! Dad, they’re great books.’
“And that, I think convinced him to do the show.”
How Melissa Gilbert found out she’d been cast on ‘Little House’
Melissa Gilbert described in an interview the moment she found out, quite unofficially, that she had won the role of Laura Ingalls on the iconic television drama.
“I went to school with the Landon kids,” she said, “I didn’t know that. . . and I was standing by my locker one day and this really tall girl came up to me and she said, ‘You’re Melissa, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘I’m Leslie and my dad says you’re going to be Half-Pint ’”
“And I ran away, I screamed, and I ran into the office to call home,” she said. “I called my mom and she had no idea. She called my agent, and my agent hadn’t even gotten called from the network yet. So my agent called the network and the network confirmed it.”
Gilbert jokingly then shared that, while her evening had been a celebratory one, it wasn’t so much for her messenger of good news.
“I, of course, got picked up [from school] because I was beside myself that I was going to play Laura. And Leslie got punished,” Gilbert said, laughing.