“E.J André” may not be the name that immediately jumps to mind when you think of Little House on The Prairie, but maybe it should be. The character actor played five separate roles on the show and did so so convincingly that you probably didn’t even notice.
André, who also made appearances in The Ten Commandments, Papillon, and Shirley Temple’s Storybook, made his Little House on the Prairie debut in the 1976 episode His Father’s Son as the one-line speaking gun dealer. In that episode, E.J André played Amos Thoms. He also played another character in a different episode that same year, Going Home. In that episode, he played Matthew Simmons.
Production hired him on to play another character the next year. He played Zachariah in the 1977 episode Gold Country. In 1978, André took on the role of St. Peter in the episode The Godsister.
Finally, André got to play the same character twice when he played Jed Cooper. Jed has a minor but significant part in the season 7 finale episode The Lost Ones. That role as Jed Cooper wound up becoming an episode title Uncle Jed. Uncle Jed was André’s last appearance on little house on the prairie.
E.J André passed away in 1984, just a couple of years after his final appearance.
‘Little House on The Prairie’s’ Michael Landon Had an Instinct for Casting
When it came to the main cast, Michael Landon, the show’s star and producer, took a different approach than usual. This was especially true with Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls. Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert had a special bond on set, with Gilbert saying at points that he was like a “surrogate father” to her. It turns out that Landon knew right away that Gilbert would be special.
Out of all the screen tests Michael Landon received, he only sent Melissa Gilbert’s to producers. For a producer, sending just one screen test is a big gamble, but Landon took the risk. It paid off exponentially. Melissa Gilbert’s role as Laura Ingalls has become one of the most iconic TV roles of all time.
Even now, Melissa Gilbert carries that role with her. Gilbert recently had to undergo multiple spinal surgeries. When Gilbert posted that she needed to go in for a third surgery, she said “I’m channeling my inner Halfpint for this one. The one who believes anything is possible. The one with courage and moxie to spare!!”
Turns out that that casting call was the right one, even decades after it was made.
No matter if it’s a background actor like E.J André or a main cast member like Melissa Gilbert, Little House on the Prairie wouldn’t be the same without the actors who made the show flourish.