‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Said Oleson Parents Were ‘Very Parental’ Behind-the-Scenes

by Katie Maloney
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What were “Nasty” Nellie’s Little House on the Prairie parents like in real-life?

Actors are often nothing like the characters they play in movies and on TV. That was certainly the case for Alison Arngrim‘, who played “Nasty” Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Arngrim has said during multiple interviews that fans didn’t always remember that she wasn’t mean in real-life like her character was on the show. But what about Arngrim’s onscreen parents? Were the actors who played the Oleson parents anything like their characters on the show? During an interview in 2018, Arngrim talked about working with her onscreen parents Katherine MacGregor and Richard Bull.

“Katherine MacGregor’s in the motion picture home…the retirement home out here in L.A.  And you know, she’s very, very, very old, but she’s still kicking. And I mean, she’s brilliant.  She’s not mean like Mrs. Oleson, but she’s crazy like Mrs. Oleson,” said Arngrim laughing. “Very eccentric woman. Unbelievably huge personality.”

Arngrim added that MacGregor and Bull had the chemistry of real parents on the set of Little House on the Prairie.

“The two of them together had such chemistry. They were like another set of parents,” said Arngrim. “They felt very parental toward me and were always. Well, Katherine would boss ya around and give ya advice and Richard was very protective. And it was fascinating to watch them because clearly, they were highly trained actors and the two of them were also very close friends. Sometimes when you’d hear them arguing off-camera, you’d think it was Nels and Harriet the way they went on. I mean it was really like having an additional set of parents. It was incredible.”

This On-Screen Father Was Voted ‘Most Like His Character’ Among Little House On The Prairie Cast

Alison Arngrim didn’t just have positive memories of her onscreen mother, she also fondly remembered her show-dad as well.

“Incredible people. Richard Bull just passed away a few years ago. Richard was voted most like his character. He really was very much like Mr. Oleson,” said Arngrim. “Very calm and sensible. The voice of reason on the set. Such a kind man. And a brilliant actor. I mean, he had played heavies and villains and things. He was a graduate of the Goodman School in Chicago. A brilliant stage actor and he continued to work very late in life. Really incredible stuff.”

This is just another example of how the Little House on the Prairie family was ideal both on and offscreen.

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