‘Little House on the Prairie’: This Actor From ‘The Waltons’ Played Michael Landon’s Iconic Role in a TV Movie

by Matthew Wilson

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie” proved to be instantly iconic. But several actors have portrayed the character including an actor from a completely different classic television show.

That’s right, John Boy from “The Waltons” stepped into Landon’s famous role. Actor Richard Thomas portrayed the patriarch of the Ingalls family during two television films. These films were quasi-sequels of sorts to the hit television series.

At least, audiences can almost view them as such. The 2000 film “Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder” and its 2002 sequel picks up with the Ingalls clan later in life. Thomas portrayed Charles Ingalls in both films, dispensing a bit of wisdom. But he’s no Michael Landon in the role. On the other hand, no actor could ever live up to Landon’s standard, not even sometimes Michael Landon.

Richard Thomas on ‘Little House on The Prairie’

None of the principal cast from “Little House on The Prairie” returned for the two TV movies. They were intended to be their own adaptation of the popular book series. But it’s hard to view any adaptation other than the original as any more than a knock-off. The two television films adapted the last four books of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular series. The books were “The Long Winter,” “Little Town of the Prairie,” “These Happy Golden Years,” and “The First Four Years.”

In the films, Meredith Monroe played an adult Laura and Walton Goggins appeared as her husband Almanzo Wilder.

In real life, Richard Thomas and Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls, shared a similar role in their respective series. Both characters were based on real-life writers and acted as the centers of their large families. Both “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie” focused on coming of age in a rural setting during an era in the past.

In many ways, Thomas was the perfect actor to portray Charles Ingalls given that Landon had passed away from cancer in the 1990s. The actor was several decades older than when he played John-Boy on “The Waltons.” And this time he inhabited the role of the wise mentor and father figure. It was a full circle for Thomas and his career on classic television. Likewise, Gilbert later inhabited a parental role when she appeared as her own TV mother in the “Little House on the Prairie” musical.

The children had grown and became the parents.