For one Little House on the Prairie actress, entertainment was second nature. Her family – including her mother and brother – and their home life was a far cry from the classic show and instead full of showbusiness.
From the age of twelve, Little House on the Prairie actress Alison Angrim portrayed Nellie Oleson. Her infamous “spoiled girl” character was a big part of audiences’ lives from 1974 to 1981 during the show’s original run. In fact, she was awarded the Young Artist Award-Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as Nellie.
In the years since, Arngrim has become a successful author and stand up comic, as well as tackling various other roles. And as it turns out, she came to do all this as part of the family business.
Both of Alison’s parents were hard-working Hollywood figureheads. Her father, Thor Angrim, was a successful Hollywood manager. Her mother, however, would influence Alison’s work far more.
Born Norma MacMillian in Vancouver, British Columbia, Arngrim’s mother was an actress and voiceover artist. She famously gave life to Casper on the original Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon. Perhaps her most famous role, though, was as Gumby himself on the titular show. She would go on to voice Davey of Davey and Goliath, as well as Sweet Polly Purebred on Underdog; the tip of the iceberg in a prolific voice acting career.
‘Little House on the Prairie’s Nellie was ‘The Dream Role for a Girl with Demons’
The Little House on the Prairie star‘s mother didn’t set out to do voicework, though. Instead, her career began as a stage actress. While working in theatre, she met and married Thor Arngrim. After the two moved to Toronto in 1954, she began landing big-time voiceover work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. From there, her days as one of the most recognizable voices in children’s cartoons would begin.
Thor and Norma also had a son, Alison’s brother Stefan. Stefan Arngrim, too, became a child actor. His most notable role came as Barry Lockridge on the Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants.
The family was, however, full of dysfunction, according to the Little House on the Prairie star. By her own words in an interview with Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Alison Arngrim was sexually molested by her older brother from ages six to nine.
Arngrim says the sexual abuse finally came to an end when she signed on to play Prairie‘s “heartless Nellie” in 1974.
“Given everything that was going on at home, playing a girl who kicked, screamed, ranted and raved was therapy for me,” she tells the trade in their 2010 interview. “It was the dream role for a girl with demons.”