‘Little House on the Prairie’: Nels Oleson Actor Richard Bull Accidentally Became an Actor

by Keeli Parkey
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During its long television run, “Little House on the Prairie” told the stories of the Ingalls family and their lives in the American West. In addition to the members of that beloved television family, the series also introduced audiences to the men and women the Ingalls family encountered in their day-to-day lives.

One of the more memorable of these characters was Nels Oleson. Along with his wife, Harriet Oleson (Katherine MacGregor), Nels owned and operated the store known as Oleson’s Mercantile. He was also the father of one of the characters fans of “Little House on the Prairie” loved to hate. That character, of course, was Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim).

The actor who brought Nels Oleson to life was Richard Bull. Unlike most actors, he did not set out to become an actor. His path to his acting career came about by accident, according to AmoMama.

Bull’s first love was music – not acting. When he was a senior in high school he was more focused on music. Acting was not even in the cards for him. But as fate would have it, a friend motivated him to give acting a try.

A Friend Motivated ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actor Richard Bull to Begin Acting

And the future “Little House on the Prairie” actor fell in love with the craft. Interestingly, the friend decided not to pursue acting. Bull, on the other hand, was ready to move forward with his study.

“A friend suggested we attend the Goodman Theater School. In two weeks the friend dropped out, but I was hooked,” the Nels Oleson actor also said.

His acting career was stalled when he joined the Army Corps. While in that company, he worked on radio. However, once his service came to an end, he went back to acting and his studies at the Goodman Theater School.

His acting studies led to the “Little House on the Prairie” actor landing a role in the film “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” While he only had two lines in the film, it still brought him attention for his work. Other roles soon followed. These included “The Satan Bug,” “High Plains Drifter,” “The Andromeda Strain,” as well as “The Stalking Moon.”

Bull’s television work also included roles in such series as “Gunsmoke,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “My Three Sons,” and “Peyton Place.”

According to IMDb, Richard Bull appeared as shop owner Nels Oleson in 145 episodes of “Little House on the Praire” from 1974 until 1983.

“Little House on the Prairie” actor Richard Bull was born in 1924 in Zion, Illinois. His father was Ralph William Bull. His mother was Pearl Smith. The family did not stay in Illinois for very long after his birth and moved to California.

This gave the young Richard exposure to films. As a youngster, his parents allowed him to go to a movie theater to watch films three times each week.

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