‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Sue Anderson Described the ‘Soaking’ and ‘Freezing’ Shooting of Pilot

by Atlanta Northcutt

Before the Little House on the Prairie cast became a tight-knit, warm, and loving family both on and offscreen, one actress didn’t feel those warm and fuzzy feelings while filming the pilot episode.

Melissa Sue Anderson starred as the oldest sister on the popular TV show that focused on a pioneer family in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

Melissa grew up on the set of the show and continued to portray Mary Ingalls through the end of her younger childhood years until her late teens. Her role is the oldest of the four daughters of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. She was given the complicated task of playing a blind character after Mary Ingalls suffers the devastating of her sight in Season 4.

But what about the very beginning? Let’s take it back to 1974 when Melissa Sue Anderson first stepped foot on set. She was the only actor on the show to receive an Emmy nomination. However, she left the show in 1981.

During an interview with Barnaby Marriott, Melissa Sue Anderson describes what it was like to perform an icy cold scene during the pilot episode of Little House on the Prairie.

Anderson was only 11 years old when she auditioned and received the role.

“I was ecstatic when I heard I’d got the part,” says Anderson.

Melissa Sue Anderson Gets A Frosty Start

When it comes to the first time the cast shot together for the pilot episode, it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. However, with Little House on the Prairie, the pilot was actually a two-hour movie.

Filming took place in Stockton and Sonora, California. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t want to cooperate which led to a soggy, cold, and rainy day in the Stockton area. Due to the amount of rain that fell, an abundance of mud was created.

Therefore, the heavy film trucks became stuck for quite some time. After finally escaping the rain and mud, the cast and crew headed to Sonora. Upon reaching their destination, they arrived to find heaps of snow.

“It rained a lot in Stockton – our heavy trucks sunk in the mud. Sonora was snowy and quaint. We had to do a rain sequence using added sprinklers and, of course, it was freezing,” Anderson explains. “We all got soaked! Karen Grassle opened my dressing room door because I was shaking too much to do it myself, even though she was just as frozen as I was – very nice!”

Although the beginning of Little House on the Prairie started out a bit icy, the close cast and crew thawed the initial cold by warming up to each other and creating an American classic.

To this day, the show continues to create warm hearts, laughter, and togetherness while reinforcing family values.