‘Little House on the Prairie’: Nellie Actress Alison Arngrim Auditioned for 2 Other Roles on Show

by Matthew Wilson

“Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim played the love-to-hate-her Nellie Oleson on the show. But she almost played these roles. Arngrim revealed that Oleson wasn’t the original character she auditioned for.

The actor tried to land two different roles on the show before ultimately getting a part. Originally, she auditioned for the roles of Laura Ingalls and her sister Mary. Producers even asked Arngrim to come back and read for the parts. But ultimately, they went to Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson. As she told the Today Show, producers then asked that she read for the part of Nellie Oleson.

They hired her on the spot, and that’s how the show got one of its most villainous kids. All these years later and Arngrim said she’s still proud of being a part of the show.

“I was and am still very proud of the work I did as Nellie,” she said. “I really thought when the show ended in the 80s that people would eventually sort of, you know, “move on.’ But of course, they didn’t. Between all the years of reruns, cable, VHS, DVDs, and now YouTube, Netflix, and streaming, there are more people watching it now than when it was on!!” 

Alison Arngrim Doesn’t Regret the Role

While Arngrim ultimately got type-casted for the role, the actor said villains had more fun. She ultimately enjoyed being a part of “Little House on the Prairie” and its history. She looked back on playing the role and terrorizing those Ingalls kids fondly.

“I honestly can’t say I was ever really “bitter” about Nellie, even with the typecasting,” she said. “I always loved the character and thought it was the most hilarious thing ever that I had been cast as a villain.”

In retrospect, Arngrim said she’s glad that she didn’t get cast as Laura Ingalls. She didn’t know if she had the capacity to play such a nice character for multiple seasons. Additionally, Gilbert ended up being one of her best friends and partners in crime after they met on the show.

“I am so glad I didn’t have the burden of having to play a “nice” person for all those years,” she said. “I think it would have been exhausting! If you look at the reaction of viewers 40 plus years later, you can see how each of us made our character ‘iconic’ and forever identified with our individual performances. In millions of people’s head, ‘Laura Ingalls Wilder’ will always conjure up the face of Melissa Gilbert.”