‘Little House on the Prairie’: Michael Landon Cast His Own Daughter on the Show

by Matthew Wilson

“Little House on the Prairie” star Michael Landon was a father figure to the cast. But he also took the opportunity to cast his own daughter on the show.

Leslie Landon appeared several times on the show as the children’s school teacher Etta Plum. Landon helped his daughter secure the role on the show. Leslie had made small appearances on the show prior to landing her guest role. Between 1982 to 1984, Leslie Landon portrayed the school teacher during the children’s formative years.

But Leslie Landon was actually there from the beginning and played a big part in the show even getting made. Michael Landon was one of the driving forces on the show, both in front of and behind the cameras. But after “Bonanza,” he actually needed some convincing to take on the show. Landon’s daughter ended up being the deciding force. She urged him to portray what ended up being one of his most iconic roles.

“I think it was Michael’s daughter Leslie who convinced Michael to do the show,” producer Kent McCray told the Archive of American Television. “Because they were sitting down to dinner one night and he said, ‘I think I’m going to do a show called ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ And she said, ‘I’ve read all those books! Dad, they’re great books.’ And that, I think convinced him to do the show.”

Michael Landon’s Daughter Went to School with Melissa Gilbert

In another odd bit of coincidence, Leslie Landon actually went to school with “Little House on the Prairie” star Melissa Gilbert. The two didn’t hang out in the same circles at school. But Leslie recognized the young star in the hallways. It was actually Leslie, who unofficially told Gilbert she won the role.

“I went to school with the Landon kids,” Gilbert said, “I didn’t know that. . . and I was standing by my locker one day and this really tall girl came up to me and she said, ‘You’re Melissa, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘I’m Leslie and my dad says you’re going to be Half-Pint.’”

So even before she ended up appearing on the show, Leslie Landon played a role in how successful the show ended up becoming.