‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Filled in for Michael Landon While He Was ‘Very Ill’ in Season 1

by Matthew Wilson
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“Little House on the Prairie” star Karen Grassle once had to fill in for Michael Landon when the actor became ill during the middle of filming.

On the set of the show, Landon was very much the captain and one of the leading creative forces behind the scenes. But during the first season, Landon became very ill from an undisclosed illness. In fact, the actor almost died. During that time, Grassle stepped up and filmed additional scenes of the show.

“During the first season, he became very ill and his life was in danger,” Grassle told Zunshine. “He had to be packed in ice for the fever and we were all very worried. At this time, I was able to step in and do extra scenes. And to help with the resolution of the story, for which he was grateful when he returned. We were all amazed at his physical endurance.”

Grassle and Landon starred alongside each other for eight seasons of the show. The two actors headed the Ingalls family as the matriarch and patriarch respectfully. Grassle had nothing but good things to say about Landon’s work effort. The actor was often performing triple duties behind the scenes to make “Little House on the Prairie” the success that it became.

“Michael was totally in his element being in charge of the show – writing, directing, producing, and starring. He was incredibly prolific and capable,” Grassle said. “Michael was very extroverted. So it wasn’t so much a matter of coping with all this, as simply being up to the physical demands.”

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Contract Renegotiations

But things were not always rosy between Landon and Grassle during the show. While they portrayed a happy couple on “Little House on the Prairie,” the two had their moments of conflict behind the scenes. Grassle confessed that her co-star could be cheap at times. In fact, he didn’t want to pay her more when it came time to renegotiate her contract.

“[Michael was] prodigiously talented,” Grassle said. “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.”

Fortunately, the two eventually managed to sort through the issue and come to terms. There was no bad blood between Grassle and Landon. They stayed amicable and friendly with each other throughout the show and until Landon eventually died in the 1990s.

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