What do Little House on the Prairie and The Wizard of Oz have in common? The answer lies on a yellow brick road.
Imagine being a little girl and discovering that the place you work is actually the set of one of the most magical and iconic films from your childhood. Well, that’s exactly what Alison Arngrim, who played nasty Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie experienced.
In the late 70s, the show’s production moved from Paramount studios to MGM. While the crew was ripping up and rebuilding sets, they discovered the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard Of Oz. During an interview, Alison shared how excited she and her castmates were to discover the old set.
“In Hollywood, they don’t throw anything out,” said Alison. “They were ripping up the floor of the set, and what Melissa [Gilbert] and I see, lying beneath, was the Yellow Brick Road! Melissa and I went nuts. We were dancing around, singing the song, pretending to be Dorothy!”
Karen Grassle, who played Caroline “Ma” Ingalls also commented on the magic of the moment.
“It was wild. We were knee-deep in Hollywood history,” she said.
When you think about it, the two productions actually have a lot in common. Both shows feature a headstrong little girl whose family and home mean everything to her. Both are coming-of-age stories about love, growth, and simply learning life’s lessons. So, it makes sense that The Wizard of Oz would reveal its magic on the set of Little House on the Prairie.
Which Big Name Hollywood Actors Made Appearances on Little House On The Prairie?
Not only was Little House on the Prairie an iconic show, but it was also the set where many of today’s famous actors got their start. Here are a few Hollywood superstars that you may not have known made appearances on Little House on the Prairie.
Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad
Almost 30 years before he played Mike Ehrmantrautin on Breaking Bad and then starred on Better Call Saul, Jonathan Banks appeared on Little House.
He played a frontier criminal for the episode titled “Darkness Is My Friend.” Banks plays a man named Jed who, along with two other criminals, captures Laura and Mary and holds them hostage. Luckily, Pa Ingalls rescues them.
Jason Bateman from Arrested Development
Long before he starred in the iconic comedy, Arrested Development, Bateman made his acting debut on Little House on the Prairie. In 1981, when Bateman was only 11 years old, he played James Cooper Ingalls.
During the show, James and his sister Cassandra were orphaned after their parents died in an accident. Charles and Caroline try to find someone to adopt the two siblings but they ultimately decide to take them in themselves. During an interview, Jason talked about what he remembered from his time with Little House.
“The only thing that I remember really soaking in was that first big job on Little House on the Prairie,” said Bateman. “That group of actors had been together since Bonanza, and the way in which everybody functioned was very familial. It was a warm place.”
Sean Penn From Mystic River
Sean Penn made his acting debut on Little House on the Prairie. His father, Leo Penn, directed the season 1 episode “The Voice of Tinker Jones.”
So, Leo cast his wife, Eileen Ryan, in the episode. He also cast his 13-year-old son, Sean Penn to play an uncredited schoolboy.