‘Little House on the Prairie’: One Star Spent a Few Months in Hollywood Before Landing Role

by Anna Dunn

Before making it big on Little House on the Prairie, Caroline “Ma” Ingalls actress Karen Grassle spent a few months looking for roles in Hollywood. She told Bobby Wygant of the experience in a 1975 interview. Wygant pointed out how Grassle landed one of the best roles of the TV season.

“I feel very lucky,” She said, gratitude evident in her voice. She didn’t understand how she got to the spot she was in. “I don’t know why my fate turned out like this but I’m awfully pleased.” Grassle didn’t know the show’s producer, Michael Landon, before the audition.

“I had just come out to California in August, and I was cast in this in December,” she said. But thankfully, Michael Landon liked to look beyond who he knew and who was well established in his casting decisions. His casting process for Laura was also daring. In fact, he only sent producers Melissa Gilbert’s screen test.

“I hadn’t met any of these people before, and I had never done a film, so the pilot was my first film. And I’m completely new to this world.” Thankfully, however, Grassle took the opportunity on Little House on the Prairie as a total blessing.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to act for so many people and meet so many people or have this kind of exposure. It’s fantastic for me,” the actress said. Despite her inexperience, Grassle would go on to play one of the most iconic TV roles of all time and do it with grace.

Where the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star got the Inspiration for Caroline ‘Ma’ Ingalls

Since Little House on the Prairie is based on the book series, it’s only natural Grassle would take inspiration from the books. But she took it a step further. She noticed that “Ma” was a “tough” and “sturdy” woman and it made her think of her own mother.

“My mother rode a horse barefoot to school, and as a young woman, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse! So I took her character, strength, and wisdom and infused Caroline with that,” Karen Grassle said.

Caroline Ingalls was the ever-busy mother of her children and a community educator. Tasks like that require a lot of strength, just like Grassle’s own mother had.

The show would be nothing without its incredibly talented cast. Therefore, Little House on the Prairie fans have a lot to thank Grassle for. Not everyone who takes the bold move to go to Hollywood winds up on TV. Karen Grassle did so in just a few months.