During a 1975 interview, Little House on the Prairie actress Karen Grassle recalled her first scene with Hollywood star Michael Landon.
Grassle played the role of Caroline Ingalls, which was Landon’s wife on the classic TV show. From 1974 to 1983, Grassle starred as the kind and generous mother of the Ingalls’ children. You’d think she was a seasoned actor by the time the series took off, but that wasn’t the case.
As the actress explained in the interview, she had just moved to California in August 1973. Only four months later in December she auditioned for the Little House on the Prairie role and got the job. Additionally, she had never once starred in a film or TV series before the pilot episode of the classic show. As she put it in the interview, she was “completely new to this world” of television and movies.
One may think that a young, inexperienced actress like Grassle could get nervous or intimidated working with Landon. However, that wasn’t the case at all. She opened up about working with the legendary actor and shared some of their early experiences acting together.
“Oh no, I felt wonderful,” Grassle said of working with Landon. “He gives so much that I just felt that I could do my work, and I could hook in.”
During the first day on set for the pilot episode, she said the weather was awful. It was rainy and very muddy out, which made it difficult for both the cast and crew. After an emotional scene between the on-screen married couple that brought both actors to tears and laughter, Grassle said she knew they had something special on camera.
“That’s when I knew we were going to play together. We weren’t just going to do lines together, we weren’t just going to be safe. We were going to allow something human to happen between us as people. I was excited and I knew I could really act here,” she explained.
Little House on the Prairie’ Didn’t Know Who Michael Landon Was Before Auditioning
It’s hard to be starstruck and nervous over someone if you don’t even know who they are. That was the case with Caroline Ingalls actress Karen Grassle who admitted she had no clue how famous Landon was before she joined the cast of Little House on the Prairie.
Previous to auditioning for the show, Grassle starred in multiple theater productions in both America and England. Yet she wasn’t exactly in tune with popular television shows or their starring actors at the time. As the actress explained to Closer Weekly in 2020, she wasn’t “a big TV watcher” in the early ’70s. During the interview, Grassle says all she knew was that she’d be auditioning with someone from Bonanza.
“My agent sent me up for a series with this guy from Bonanza [Michael Landon],” Grassle said to Closer Weekly. “I was not a big TV watcher, so I asked, ‘Which one is he?’ He said, ‘He’s Little Joe.’ I was the only one at the interview — they’d seen everyone in Hollywood who was right for the part! They were down to the wire because they cast everyone else. After I read my second scene with Mike, he leapt up like a jack-in-the-box and said, ‘Bring her to wardrobe!’ But NBC had to approve me, so he interviewed me for executives on closed-circuit TV.”
Although it’s amusing to think someone didn’t know who Michael Landon was in the ’70s, it sounds like Grassle’s ignorance on the matter actually may have benefited her in the long run. She knocked her audition out of the park, and landed a main role on Little House on the Prairie for the next nine years.