HomeEntertainment‘Little House on the Prairie’: The Actors That Called It Quits After the Show

‘Little House on the Prairie’: The Actors That Called It Quits After the Show

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credits: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

“Little House on the Prairie” was and is still a popular show for many viewers. But one actor had enough after starring in the show.

Karen Grassle, who portrayed Ma Ingalls, decided to quit acting after her starring role on the show. Grassle is best known for the show because she quit the show biz shortly after. Grassle actually didn’t have much acting experience before appearing on “Little House on the Prairie.”

Casting for the role of Ma came down to the wire for production. They had auditioned numerous people for the role. But they couldn’t find the right fit for the actor to portray Michael Landon’s on-screen wife.

“They were down to the wire because they cast everyone else,” Grassle told Closer Weekly.  “After I read my second scene with Mike, he leapt up like a jack-in-the-box and said, ‘Bring her to wardrobe!’ But NBC had to approve me, so he interviewed me for executives on closed-circuit TV.”

Grassle portrayed the character for eight seasons until the show revamped during Season Nine. Most of the Ingalls family left during that period. And the show quickly sputtered and died without their on-screen presence. Grassle later returned for one post-series movie as well. But after her time on the show, she decided to move away from Los Angeles for New Mexico.

Grassle still had a passion for acting though. She made occasional film appearances in the decades since. She also opened a theater company and transitioned into mainly stage productions.

Jonathan Gilbert Also Quit Acting After ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Grassle wasn’t the only ‘Little House on the Prairie’ actor to quit the business after the show. Jonathan Gilbert, who portrayed Willie Oleson, also quit acting as well. Gilbert never intended to be an actor though. He was cast on the show at an early age and didn’t enjoy Hollywood according to his co-stars.

“We would go to parties, and Melissa and I would be off to some red carpet thing, NBC affiliate this, and blah blah blah that. He’d be back at the house playing pinball,” Alison Arngrim said. “We’d be all dressed up, we’d be picking her up, going somewhere together. We’d be like, ‘Aren’t you coming?’ He’d be like, ‘No.’ He did no publicity — he completely didn’t care. And as soon as he was done, he packed his things and went, ‘See ya,’ and moved out of her house.”

Like Grassle, Gilbert enjoyed a more quiet life away from the cameras. He later became a stockbroker after finishing out his time with the show.