‘Little House on the Prairie’ Actress Karen Grassle ‘Never Thought’ She’d Last Nine Seasons on Show

by Anna Dunn
(Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images)

For actors, it’s always hard to tell how long you’ll keep a gig. Caroline “Ma” Ingalls actress Karen Grassle from Little House on the Prairie was no exception.

“I never thought I could last that long,” she once said in an interview about the show’s longevity. Little House on the Prairie lasted for nine years. During its run, Grassle played the sturdy and dependable mother figure of the show, “Ma” Ingalls.

She also said in that same interview, which took place shortly after the end of the show, that she was excited to be able to focus on other things. “I love having this freedom right now to do different things. For me, the thrill of acting is transforming yourself into a different person. So playing one person for eight years- even though I was able to go off and do some other things, it’s nice to delve back into the craft of acting.”

Grassle was a very serious actress. She first studied at UC Berkley before spending time abroad in London. While she had her moments of struggle, she eventually landed the part of Caroline on Little House on The Prairie. Afterward, Grassle acted in multiple productions before shifting her focus.

Grassle Stopped Accepting Roles after ‘Little House on the Prairie’

While Grassle enjoyed acting in plays and smaller roles after Little House on the Prairie, she would wind up rejecting larger film and television roles later down the line. Why? The actress wanted to prioritize family. She adopted her husband at the time’s children and adopted a baby girl of her own.

This is in spite of the fact that she was in high demand. “I think I had the second-highest TVQ (television identity) in the country in terms of women,” she said. For her Little House on the Prairie gave her something far more valuable than name recognition.

“I really felt like the wonderful thing about ‘Little House was that it freed me economically. I could make my own choices about what to do with my life and what to do with my career,” she said.

While those choices led her to prioritize her family above acting, Grassle is now getting back into her craft in a big way. She’s starring in the 2021 film Not To Forget, which is now in post production. Not to Forget follows the story of a “self-centered” young person who is forced to take care of his grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Grassle stars alongside multiple Academy Award-winning actors.

From playing a TV mother to becoming a mother herself, Karen Grassle’s journey has been a joy for fans to follow.