This ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Alum Said Melissa Sue Anderson Never ‘Seemed to Fit In’ With Her Young Co-Stars
Little House on the Prairie often put young actors Melissa Sue Anderson and Melissa Gilbert in the spotlight during the show’s early seasons. Playing sisters Mary and Laura Ingalls on the family series, viewers could easily get the impression the two child stars were close off camera.
Yet Gilbert seemed to bond more with Alison Arngrim, who portrayed the town’s spoiled rich kid Nellie Oleson on the historical drama. One cast member of the show later revealed how Anderson was often on the outs from her peers on set.
Charlotte Stewart worked with the kids on ‘Little House’
Actor Charlotte Stewart played Miss Eva Beadle, school teacher to the children of Walnut Grove. On Little House for four seasons, Stewart had most of her scenes with her younger co-stars.
“For anyone who was a kid watching Little House on the Prairie, it was probably easy to imagine that the lives of the actors who played Mary, Laura, Nellie, or any of the others were really fun and exciting,” Stewart wrote in her book Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. “The truth is it was mixed. … For the most part, life on the Little House set was hardly a play land.”
Stewart revealed that the kids in the cast were expected to be as prepared for work as the adults.
“The show was run as a tight ship in all ways, including expectations for the children,” the Little House alum wrote. “They were either shooting scenes, in their on-set school, or on a union mandated break. There was very little goof-around time except scripted moments in front of the camera. … I didn’t get the idea that any of them were particularly unhappy. They all seemed up for the daily challenge.”
Melissa Sue Anderson was different from her co-stars
Describing Gilbert and Arngrim as outgoing, Stewart shared that Anderson was “never a girl who seemed to fit in with the rest of the kids, nor particularly seemed to want to.” Despite Anderson’s more reserved demeanor, Stewart found her to be highly professional and easy to have as a co-star.
“She was always ready to work, nailed her part, and was prepared,” Stewart said of Anderson. “So I didn’t have any difficulty working with her, and in fact I liked her a lot. She seemed like a very normal, healthy, non-Hollywood kid. She wasn’t there to hog to spotlight.”
As the seasons progressed, Stewart witnessed Anderson being edged out by her young cast mates.
“I did see [Anderson’s’] aloofness (or perceived aloofness) between takes and, over time, her isolation from the other kids,” the Little House star recalled. “In many ways she carried herself like a young adult from early on. … [Anderson] has also written a book about her Little House experiences but, like her presence on set, it doesn’t allow the reader to look too deeply into her life.”
‘Little House’ star had a tight-knit family
Stewart attributed Anderson’s somewhat standoffish persona to being more tied to her family than show business.
“Unlike the other kids, many of whom had a paid caretaker with them on the set, Melissa’s mom was there almost all the time,” Stewart explained. “She was my favorite of the actor-kids’ moms on Little House – some of whom were either big, over-the-top personalities or were just basket cases.”
Anderson was the first and only actor on Little House on the Prairie to be nominated for an Emmy. She left the series in 1981. Stewart’s character was written out at the end of the show’s fourth season.