‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actor Alison Arngrim Was Told She Was a ‘Has Been’ at 12 Years Old

by Will Shepard

When Little House on the Prairie first aired, there were five of the characters 12 years old or younger. The show relied heavily on those actresses’ abilities. All of them stepped up to the plate and made the show become well-loved all over America.

Alison Arngrim was only twelve years old when she joined the show. Her character, Nellie Oleson, was the antagonist of the series. She portrayed a sneaky, witty, and cunning character in Nellie. Almost immediately, Arngrim proved her worth to the NBC show. Consequently, her role grew exponentially over the course of the show.

During an interview with Tom Gregory in 2013, Arngrim talked about her career when she was young. In their conversation, she talked about how she was hearing that her acting career was over almost before it started.

The Little House on the Prairie actress said that her career began at the age of six. She explained that she did a ketchup commercial for Hunt’s.

“My whole family was in the business. My mother and father were both actors out of Canada, had been in New York. I had a brother who was also working in television. My aunt was a concert soprano. My uncle was a classical violinist. I thought everyone was in show business,” Arngrim explained. “Until I was seven years old, I actually thought everyone was on television.”

Alison Arngrim Was Apparently Washed up Before She Joined “Little House on the Prairie”

Next, Gregory asked her when she won her part on Little House on the Prairie. She told a short snippet about how her career was being viewed at such a young age.

“I was 12—just turning 12—about 11, 12 years old,” the actress remembered. “I had just started junior high. And I had been auditioning. I had done a movie when I was 10, and it was actually funny because I hadn’t worked since the movie. I was being told that my career wasn’t going anywhere. And I was a has-been at 12.”

By the standards that the rest of her family had set for her, perhaps she was considered a flop. However, she quickly proved all of her critics wrong.

“And then I got Little House when I was 12, so it was sort of my comeback,” Arngrim said and then burst into laughter and rolled her eyes at that thought.

It is highly doubtful that her family was providing any negative feedback about her career. Imagine telling a twelve-year-old that because she hadn’t been in anything in two years that she is washed up? That’s another level of pessimism and adversity to overcome than most people have to deal with.