‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Explained Why Stars on Show Didn’t ‘Have a Life’

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Working on “Little House on the Prairie” wasn’t always fun. Karen Grassle goes one step further, saying its stars didn’t “have a life.”

Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls on the NBC drama, talks about it with radio talk-show host Dave Lefkowitz in a 2004 interview on “Dave’s Gone By.”

“You don’t have a life,” she said. “You have a series. Unless you’re doing a half-hour comedy, then their schedule is completely different.”

Grassle points out this type of schedule happened nine months out of the year. For her, she said in the first year she worked from 5:30 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week. The exception was on Fridays when Grassle and her “Little House on the Prairie” cast members would work late.

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Would Have Little Time To Herself

“When we were on distant location, which we were two or three times a year, we worked six days a week,” she said.

Grassle said when she got home from work, there was just enough time to eat, sleep, get up, and go back to work. Additionally, she would spend any downtime reading “Little House on the Prairie” scripts and memorizing lines.

“It was a lot of hours, especially the first couple of years,” Grassle said. “And especially for Mike [Landon] and me. Mike was directing about half the shows and for me, the children had limited hours because they had to be in school. And they also had to go home earlier.”

Grassle tells Lefkowitz that she would go back, at the end of the day, and do every scene over again. She’d also change costumes, hairstyle, and do the scene with the script supervisor for her close-ups. Grassle would do all of them after 5 p.m. every day.

Grassle Didn’t Think She’d Last All Nine Seasons On NBC Drama

“Little House on the Prairie” ran for nine seasons on NBC. The fact that it did came as a surprise to Grassle.

“I never thought I could last that long,” she said in an interview with TBS’ Bill Tush about the show’s longevity. 

Grassle was looking forward to focusing on other things in her life and work.

“I love having this freedom right now to do different things,” she said. Her interview with Tush takes place after the show finishes its NBC run. She said the “thrill of acting” is changing from being you to another person. Grassle said it is “nice to delve back into the craft of acting.”

But she reached a point in her career where acting didn’t take the top rung. Grassle wanted to have a family, so she got married and adopted a child. Now 79 years old, Grassle has the opportunity to pick and choose what she wants to work on in her career.