“Little House on the Prairie” character Nellie Oleson faked injuries to get attention. But her actor Alison Arngrim was really hurt in reality. Arngrim had a real-life injury written into the show.
During the Season Three episode “Bunny,” Nellie pretended to be both paralyzed and have a broken arm. But Arngrim’s arm was really broken in real life. And producers had to write the injury into the show. During her off time, Arngrim picked up skateboarding as a hobby. And she suffered a fall.
“I had been skateboarding the week before. And like an idiot, I fell off my skateboard and broke my arm. They were not happy about that at the TV show,” Arngrim told TODAY in 2018. “So we do this episode, we’ll have Doc Baker put a fake 1800s cast over your 1970s cast. And we’ll just work it in. I’m faking paralysis but I have a real broken arm. I have the wheelchair, and Doc Baker says you can use your other hand. I said, “No, no, actually I cannot.'”
Allison Arngrim on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
During the episode, Arngrim’s character Nellie goes for a ride on Laura Ingalls’s beloved steed Bunny. But Nellie being Nellie, she starts to abuse the animal to her own amusement. This caused the horse to buck and knock Nellie off of it. Arngrim’s character isn’t hurt by the fall other than a bruised ego. But she uses the opportunity to garner sympathy from others and get back at Laura.
Feeling terrible about the whole situation, Laura starts to help Nellie out while she fakes being paralyzed. But Laura soon realizes that Arngrim’s character is up to her old ways. In “Little House on the Prairie” fashion, Nellie ends up getting her comeuppance as a result. Laura pushes the character down a hill in the wheelchair to prove that she was faking all of her injuries. And Nellie ends up in a pond.
Behind the scenes, Michael Landon discussed Arngrim’s extracurricular habits. He agreed they would shoot around the injury and even signed her cast. But he warned her about skateboarding before she injured herself further. In usual Landon fashion, he turned his warning into a joke.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to go skateboarding again, right?’ And I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Good because I’ll break the other arm,'” Arngrim said. The injury ended up being an interesting story for the actor to tell.