‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Said Writers’ Western Background Led to Issues with Her Character

by Anna Dunn
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30: AJ Calloway (R) interviews (L-R standing) Matthew Labyorteaux, Michael Landon, Jr., Alison Arngrim, Dean Butler, Lindsay Greenbush, (L-R seated) Karen Grassle, and Melissa Sue Anderson of 'Little House On The Prairie' during their visit to "Extra" at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on April 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)

While the writers’ background in westerns certainly had its upsides for Little House on the Prairie, one actor said it brought up issues with her character. Karen Grassle, who played Caroline “Ma” Ingalls didn’t necessarily love how her character was treated.

In an interview with Dave’s Gone By, Grassle talked about her issue with the show.

“The guys that developed Little House and a lot of the writers for the show came out of Bonanza and the whole Western [genre], so they were oriented from a guy’s point of view. I was looking for this character to expand and be more representative of the strong woman she actually was,” Grassle said.

At the time, writers for the western genre may not have understood that perspective. Often, Grassle would have to push to get her character more screen time.

“So sometimes I was very frustrated because they’d give me “more coffee dear” and I wanted to do more. They were very, very important, creative years for me as an actress, and I knew that there were a lot of parts going by while I was on the series,” she said.

‘Little House on The Prairie’ Stars Argued Over Pay

Grassle often expressed gratitude for her time on Little House on the Prairie. However, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have her issues with the show. Aside from the writing sidelining her character, she also found her pay unfair. She wasn’t the only Little House on the Prairie cast member to struggle with pay either.

Grassle and Michael Landon, who created the show and starred alongside Grassle as her husband Charles Ingalls, got in intense disputes about her pay. Grassle realized after the show got successful that her pay should have been raised at that point. Intense contract negations took place between her and Landon. They got so intense that they soured the relationship.

“[Michael was] prodigiously talented. A complicated character from a dysfunctional family who loved his crew. But when the show was in the top 10, and I said, ‘Gee, it is time to renegotiate my contract,’ Michael did not want to pay me. It was very difficult,” Grassle said in a July interview.

Thankfully, the two were able to patch things up and heal eventually. After Little House on The Prairie, Grassle took on a few roles before deciding to dedicate her time to raising her children. Now, she’s back in the acting business. Grassle’s starring in a new film Not to Forget, which will come out in 2021.