‘Little House on the Prairie’: One Star Said They Wouldn’t Allow Child to Act After Being on Show

by Matthew Wilson
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“Little House on the Prairie” had numerous child actors that played the Ingalls and their friends. But one star said they wouldn’t let their own children act after appearing on the show.

Actor Karen Grassle wasn’t a child star on the show herself. She played Caroline Ingalls, the on-screen mother to many of the show’s characters. The role perhaps made her think about her own duties as a mother. In real life, Grassle adopted two children with then-husband James Allen Radford. The actor said she would never allow either to be child stars.

For one, Grassle became aware of the stresses the young cast had to endure for their fame.

“I worked most closely with the two Melissas and the Greenbush twins for years before the show added more kids,” Grassle told Zunshine. “I loved all of them. It was hard watching them have to deal with the situation because as sensitive as Mike and others were to the facts they were kids, they had to produce and they had to produce on cue.”

Grassle respected the parents of her youthful “Little House on the Prairie” co-stars and the challenges they also faced. But as a parent, Grassle said she couldn’t put her own children through the Hollywood experience.

“It was painful to see them go through the stresses that adult actors find challenging,” Grassle said. “Matt and Patrick’s parents seemed to handle the situation with a lot of grace, and so did Baby Grace’s mother. Hollywood is not a world I would [have] chose for my own child.”

Being a Child Actor on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Unlike Grassle, “Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim was a child when she appeared on the show. Arngrim played the character of Nellie Oleson on the show, a nemesis to the Ingalls kids. As a kid, Arngrim had challenges on set. For one, her wig made her bleed. And high temperatures of summer also caused her to faint in her wardrobe.

But Arngrim believed overall, some child actors had it a lot rougher than the “Little House on the Prairie” cast. For one, some states fail to protect child actors from exploitation and long work hours. Fortunately, she never faced such issues on the show.

“Child actors often work under less than ideal circumstances. It can be pretty bad.  Luckily for us, Little House was shot in California, and Michael and our gang were sticklers for rules,’ Argrim said. “We also had the HUGE advantage that Michael [Landon] and his crew had decided that ALL days would end at a reasonable hour so that everyone could go home and have dinner with their families.”

Ultimately, being a child actor isn’t for everyone. It comes with both its perks but also its disadvantages as well.

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