‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert Credited Michael Landon for Developing Her Political Voice

by Joe Rutland

Melissa Gilbert is one person who isn’t afraid to speak out on social issues. “Little House on the Prairie” star Michael Landon helped her.

“I grew up in a family of opinionated people,” Gilbert said in an interview with Parade Magazine. “But I think my activism was definitely much more entrenched, and also Michael Landon was very vocal politically.”

Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder for 10 seasons on NBC’s hit family drama, has been active politically and within the entertainment industry. In 2016, she won the Democratic primary for a U.S. Congressional seat in Michigan. Later, though, she dropped out due to health concerns.

Gilbert Listens To ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star

She served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild between 2001-05. The SAG is a major voice to represent actors in the entertainment industry. Melissa Gilbert’s activism has roots not only in her family but with Landon as well.

“He (Landon) was very vocal in his support of people of color and women,” Gilbert said, “and very against a lot of the violence and bigotry that he was seeing in the world. That’s why he wrote about it and that’s why he directed people to write about it.”

Michael Landon probably had some insight into bigotry on a personal level. He was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz. His father was Jewish while his mother was Roman Catholic. As a young boy, he followed Judaism and went through all the steps needed before his Bar Mitzvah.

Landon Was Like A Superhero In Gilbert’s Eyes

Working with Landon on “Little House on the Prairie” was a learning experience for Melissa Gilbert. She witnessed first-hand the dark, angry side of Landon, yet he was always kind to her.

In her eyes, Landon also reflected the traits and look of a superhero. Landon was, to her, like James Bond or even Batman.

“I’d never seen a man in person who was built like him,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, “Prairie Tale.” “He was an upside-down triangle, thick and muscular, and tough beyond my imagination.

“He chain-smoked cigarettes,” Gilbert said. “On our first day of shooting, we were out in the snow and he was giving us direction when he took out his cigarette and stubbed it out in the palm of his glove. … He did that all the time.”