How Melissa Gilbert Portrayed 2 Main Characters From “Little House On The Prairie”

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Melissa Gilbert is known for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls in the drama series Little House on the Prairie. Still, years later, Gilbert returned to Walnut Grove as a different character. 

The television show, Little House on the Prairie, was based on a popular book series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The show followed the 1870s adventures and struggles of the Ingalls family and instantly became a favorite for viewers. The long-running show aired for nine seasons and several television specials. 

When Little House on the Prairie first aired, Gilbert was just ten years old. For 11 years, Gilbert grew up in front of the camera as Laura. Following the show’s end, Gilbert kept steady work in Hollywood. Eventually, Gilbert agreed to return to the show’s theatrical production. When Gilbert decided to join the musical version of the show, she immediately enrolled in singing lessons. Gilbert trained for a year before rehearsals, and even with preparation, the actress was incredibly nervous. 

“Normally, opportunities for actresses my age begin to wane, and yet there I was at forty-four starting a whole new facet of my career,” Gilbert explained in her memoir, Prairie Tale.

Still, the “strangest part” of returning to Walnut Grove was that she was cast as Ma instead of Laura. Early on, Gilbert would even respond when someone would call for Laura.

“The strangest part of the whole experience for me was grappling with the idea of playing Ma instead of Laura,” Gilbert wrote. “Talk about an identity crisis.”

Gilbert also admitted that she “stood in the wings and wept” as she watched the theatrical scenes between Pa and Laura. When Gilbert watched, she could not help but remember her relationship with Micheal Landon.

Watch a promotional clip from the musical below.