“Little House on the Prairie” was a beloved TV show based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It lasted for nine seasons through the 1970s and ’80s. And some of its stars were actually related in real life.
Stars Melissa Gilbert and Jonathan Gilbert Were Siblings
Actress Melissa Gilbert got the part of Laura on the show. She was 10 years old at the time. Her little brother Jonathan, 7, got the role of Willie Oleson. Actor Paul Gilbert and his wife, actress Barbara Crane, had adopted both of the kids, per Showbiz Cheat Sheet.
Melissa got her first job working with Carter baby clothing at just 2 years old, according to LittleHouseonthePrairie.com. She went on to star in a commercial for Alpo dog food and to play the daughter of a pioneer family in “Gunsmoke.”
When she finally auditioned for “Little House on the Prairie” at 9 years old, she was ready for the role. Executive producer Ed Friendly and star Michael Landon thought so, too. She got the part easily.
Melissa would go on to act in 190 of 204 total episodes of the show. By the time the show ended, she was nearly 20 years old.
Meanwhile, Melissa had been dealing with a difficult home life. Her and Jonathan’s adoptive parents got divorced in 1976. Her adoptive father had a stroke and died soon after. Melissa revealed in her 2010 memoir Prairie Tale that he had committed suicide.
Sadly, after “Little House on the Prairie” ended, her brother Jonathan cut contact with his adopted family and moved away. He lives in New York City and works as a stockbroker, according to Melissa’s book, but they don’t talk.
Michael Landon’s Kids Appeared on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Actor Michael Landon not only starred in but also directed episodes of the show, and he helped with the original casting.
Landon cast his son Michael Landon Jr. in the Season 3 episode “The Election.” He cast his daughter Leslie Landon in multiple smaller roles before giving her the full-time role of schoolteacher Ms. Plum. He also cast his daughter Shawna in two uncredited roles during Season 9, per Showbiz Cheat Sheet.
Landon had a total of nine children, several of whom later went into show business.
Michael Landon Jr. grew up to be a writer, director and producer focused mainly on television. Chris Landon went into movie screenwriting, directing and producing. Jennifer Landon became a successful actress and currently appears on “Yellowstone” as Teeter.