‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Spoke Out on Turning Negative Typecasting into Comedy

by Anna Dunn

Alison Arngrim, who played the infamous ‘Nasty Nellie’ on Little House on the Prairie, is far from the evil and often humorless character we saw her play on TV. In fact, Arngrim has channeled the fact that she was the evil character into her comedy.

Arngrim has been doing standup since she was a teenager. There were even times when she was doing comedy while also working on the show. She even turned her experiences on The Little House in the Prairie and elsewhere into a one-woman show and book called Confessions of a Prairie B*tch.

“My friend laughed so hard he had an asthma attack and needed medication,” she said in a 2016 interview with Pop Goes the Culture TV.

But the experiences she’s had haven’t necessarily been pleasant. After the show, she got typecast as the mean characters and even treated like the rotten person people saw on TV.

“I find myself saying, ‘B*tch you want? B*tch you shall have!'” she said. “In Hollywood, women are pressured to be likable and nice and fit in a little box, and by having been typecasted and branded with this terrible b*tch awful girl label. It’s actually freed me up.”

While Arngrim initially auditioned for Laura Ingalls, it seems like she wouldn’t have things end up any other way. While on set, she got along well with Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura. The on-screen rivals became real-life friends. Now, Arngrim says she pities Gilbert because of the pressure put on her for playing Laura Ingalls.

Arngrim had ‘Little House in the Prairie’ Producers in Stitches During Audition

Arngrim was hilarious even as a child. When she auditioned, she read a monologue from the show that got a laugh not only from her father but from producers.

“I read it, and they were laughing hysterically,” she said in Casting Walnut Grove. “And, they said, ‘Could you do that again, please?’ And, I said, ‘Oh, yes. What would you like me to change? ‘And, they said, ‘(Laughing) Nothing.'”

Arngrim’s role as Nellie was widely viewed as incredibly well acted for a young girl her age. Melissa Gilbert has even attributed Nellie to some of the newer-age “mean girl” tropes and roles.

Many child stars struggle to find their footing once they get older. Arngrim took the hand she was dealt due to her Little House on the Prairie role and turned it into comedy gold.