Little House on the Prairie cast: then and now

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder

Melissa Gilbert portrays the fictionalized version of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the woman responsible for writing the Little House on the Prairie books back in the 1930s. Laura is the second oldest member of the family and the tomboy of the group. Throughout the show, she demonstrates a preference for sports like fishing and baseball, instead of stereotypically feminine activities. As she grows older, she falls for a guy named Almanzo who she ends up marrying once she’s seventeen. Their relationship suffers great hardships, including the death of their second child.

Melissa Gilbert today

Little House on the Prairie was just the start for Gilbert who’s been a popular feature on our TV screens for years. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, she appeared on dozens of television movies, as well as in recurring roles for other series. In 2012, she gave dancing a go when she appeared on popular reality competition show Dancing with the Stars, eventually placing fifth. Since then, the actress has tried her hand at other things, including politics when she ran for Michigan’s congressional seat.

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson Dalton

Alison Arngrim’s character in Little House on the Prairie isn’t always the most likable, but it’s hard to stop watching her. Nellie is incredibly entitled and isn’t afraid to act up the spoiled rich girl stereotype, especially around Laura. The two have a very strained relationship throughout her time, something that only begins to sort itself out towards the end of her storyline. Despite often getting on the wrong side of people, Nellie was far from unlovable, and she ends up marrying the father of her future kids, Percival Dalton.

Alison Arngrim today

Nellie may not have been the most lovable character, but the same can’t be said for the actress playing her. Her time on the show prompted her to write an autobiography that referenced the audience’s intense reaction to Nellie and how she dealt with it. Although Little House on the Prairie is Arngrim’s most notable appearance to date, it’s far from her only one. She featured on an episode of comedy series The Love Boat and drama Fantasy Island in the ‘80s, as well as numerous films through the 2000s.

Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls

Sometimes, when a character is young, producers use more than one actor to play them. Carrie, the middle child of the Ingalls family, is played by two twin sisters throughout her feature on the series. Due to being a late developer, unlike the rest of her siblings, Carrie is often seen as the baby of the family and is treated with a lot more tenderness and care than the other Ingalls. The character also has a very vivid imagination that serves her well in the show.

Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush today

While they may have gained a fanbase from appearing on Little House on the Prairie, Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush weren’t too interested in following a career in acting. After starring on the show, they had a few other roles, with Sidney starring in comedy-drama film Hambone and Hillie while Lindsay featured on an episode of crime drama Matt Houston. After that, the pair left the industry and finished their high school education. They both eventually married, with Lindsay tying the knot to a guy she met on the show.

Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls

As the mother of five children, Caroline always has a lot on her plate. However, she never lets that get the best of her. Caroline is adept at controlling her temper and staying positive which makes life at home that little bit easier for the Ingalls. The character’s loving nature influences her decisions in the show, including her adoption of Albert Quinn and the Cooper children, although it’s also her downfall. After she fails to give her husband a son, she feels that she’s failed him as a wife.

Karen Grassle today

For several decades, Karen Grassle had a hiatus from acting. After appearing on Little House on the Prairie, she featured on The Love Boat, and a few TV films before disappearing from the spotlight. However, Grassle couldn’t stay away forever. In 2017, she made a return to acting with appearances in short film Where’s Roman? and horror movie Lasso. Before that, she featured in a few biographical films in 2012, as well as on several episodes of popular crime drama Murder, She Wrote at the end of the ‘80s.

Allison Balson as Nancy Oleson

If people thought Nellie was an unlikable character, then they must have found her adopted sister Nancy abhorrent. Nancy comes into the show in the premiere of season eight, and she shows her true self right from the start. Although Harriet wants to adopt her, Nancy is resistant and runs away. However, she later comes round to the idea of being adopted and soon starts causing trouble for the Oleson family. Nellie is the only one to believe there’s good in her, but she’s repeatedly disappointed by her sister’s behavior.

Allison Balson today

Playing Nancy is Allison Balson’s most significant role to date. Before joining the show, she’d had minor appearances on dramas like CHiPs, but it was“Little House on the Prairie that introduced her to the world. When she left the series, she put more focus on her studies and eventually graduated from Princeton, although she always kept one foot in the creative pool. Balson has done a lot of singing over the years, and had a song included on the soundtrack for children’s film Legend of the White Horse.

Shannen Doherty as Jenny Wilder

Jenny Wilder is a child who ends up in the care of Laura and her husband after her father passes away. Dealing with his death isn’t easy for Jenny, and the grief leads her to try and take her own life. However, her attempt is unsuccessful, and she learns to accept what’s happened and move on with her new family. The girl’s life doesn’t stay drama-free though. In one episode, she’s taken hostage by a madman, while in another she suffers brain damage while swimming due to oxygen starvation.

Shannen Doherty today

Little House on the Prairie may have been a prominent role for Shannen Doherty, but she’s had plenty of those throughout her career. She was a main cast member on teen drama Beverly Hills 90210, and later starred as Prudence Halliwell in supernatural drama Charmed. More recently, she planned to star in the TV adaptation of black comedy Heathers, a film that she’d featured in back in the ‘80s. However, Paramount has since dropped the show in response to the school shootings that have happened increasingly in recent years.

Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh as Grace Ingalls

Carrie Ingalls isn’t the only character to be portrayed by twins on the show. Her younger sister Grace is also played by two sisters – Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh – who alternated between playing the young girl. Grace is the true baby of the family, being the last biological Ingalls child to be born. After three girls, Charles is hopeful that Grace will turn out a boy when Caroline gives birth. However, he isn’t disappointed when it turns out she’s a girl and loves the new baby just as much.

Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh today

Wendi and Brenda both loved their time on Little House on the Prairie and would often fight over who got to film on set. However, while they enjoyed being in the spotlight, they decided not to stick around. Following a commercial the pair did when the show finished, they left the industry and haven’t looked back. Brenda is now a history teacher, while her sister is a web designer. They’ve both become moms to two children and enjoy their normal lives, although they still attend reunion events on occasion.

Patrick Labyorteaux as Andrew Garvey

Andrew Garvey, or Andy as he’s better known, joins the show in series four where he quickly becomes close to Laura. The two spend a lot of time together and embark on a series of adventures which includes solving burglaries in Walnut Grove. He’s relatively close with his parents and is devastated when his mom dies in a fire at the blind school. When her death prompts Andy’s father to turn to drink, the boy decides to stay with the Ingalls. However, he and his father later move away.

Patrick Labyorteaux today

Little House on the Prairie was just the start for Patrick Labyorteaux. Following his four years on the show, he became a huge TV star. Some of the actors best-known credits include starring as Lieutenant Bud Roberts Jr. on over 200 episodes of legal drama JAG, a character that he reprised in the sitcom Yes, Dear and police procedural drama NCIS. He’s also voiced the character Flash Thompson on the animated series Spider-Man and most recently appeared on police dramas Scandal and Rebel.

Matthew Labyorteaux as Albert Quinn Ingalls

Patrick isn’t the only Labyorteaux sibling to appear on Little House on the Prairie. His younger brother, Matthew, also stars in the series as Albert Quinn Ingalls, a character that first appears in season five episode As Long As We’re Together. After a tough childhood, the character decides to run away and live on his own. However, he’s later taken in by Charles and Caroline when they find him in Winoka. He discovers happiness with the family, but after a series of romantic relationships, is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Matthew Labyorteaux today

Like his brother, Matthew has had a reasonably successful career after being on Little House on the Prairie. He’s had many single episode roles and TV movies appearances, as well as recurring parts on soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and sci-fi series Whiz Kids. He’s been most notable for his voice work which includes the animations Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and Winx Club. His biggest role was voicing Jaden Yuki on the anime Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, a character that he returned to for the 2017 video game Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links.

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls

With eight mouths to feed throughout the series, Charles Ingalls has a lot to do to look after his family. He isn’t known to shy away from work and often takes on more than he can handle, all for the sake of feeding his loved ones. This comes back to bite him when he injures himself and is unable to complete his work, although thankfully the men of Walnut Grove come to his aid. Their desire to help comes from the fact that Charles is a kind, honorable man.

Michael Landon today (deceased)

Sadly, we lost the actor to cancer back in the early ‘90s, a loss that was felt by the industry. Michael Landon was one of the true greats and he, like his character, was never afraid to work hard. He acted, directed, produced and wrote, something that came in handy during his time on Little House on the Prairie. He worked behind the scenes for over 50 episodes, as well as on the anthology series Love Story, western drama Father Murphy, and drama Highway to Heaven.

Melora Hardin as Belinda Stevens

Belinda Stevens appearance in Little House on the Prairie, is brief but memorable. She stars in the two-parter The Reincarnation of Nellie as one of Albert’s classmates, a character who she has a good relationship with. The pair appear to be interested in one another. However, that’s thrown into disarray when Nancy comes along. Both girls yearn for Albert’s affections, and Nancy is willing to go to harsh lengths to come out victorious. She ends up locking Belinda in her ice house just so that Albert will pick her.

Melora Hardin today

It’s safe to say that Melora Hardin hasn’t been struggling for work since her appearance on the show. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, she racked up dozens of single episode appearances, with recurring roles starting to come in the 2000s. She’s been a regular on crime dramedy Cover Me, detective series Monk and dramedy Transparent. Hardin is currently a main cast member on another dramedy – The Bold Type. As well as starring on TV, the actress has had plenty of film roles, including “You,” which she also directed and produced

Ernest Borgnine as Jonathan

Another guest star who had a significant impact was Ernest Borgnine as Jonathan. He only stars in the two-parter “The Lord is My Shepherd,” but the impact he has on young Laura is significant. The Ingalls girl runs away from home after her baby brother passes away. She feels responsible for his death because she didn’t pray for him, but Jonathan helps her realize that it wasn’t her fault. The character knows what he’s talking about because he’s actually an angel sent to help Laura deal with her grief.

Ernest Borgnine today (deceased)

Ernest Borgnine is another fantastic actor sadly no longer with us. Throughout his 95 years, the actor gave us hundreds of memorable performances, some of which even earned him high-profile awards and nominations. As well as appearing on shows like sitcom The Single Guy and medical drama ER, Borgnine was famous for his voice work. He was the character of Mermaid Man in Spongebob Squarepants for over a decade, as well as the villainous Carface Carruthers on animated rom-com All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 and its resulting series.

Olivia Barash as Sylvia Webb

Sylvia Webb is probably one of the most unfortunate characters to ever feature on two episodes of a show. Due to her body developing faster than her classmates, Sylvia is the object of people’s affections. Her father resents the way she presents herself because of this and shows her little sympathy when she is later assaulted. Although she shares a loving relationship with Albert, they don’t get their happy ending. After nearly being attacked again, Sylvia falls off a ladder and suffers a brain injury that results in her death.

Olivia Barash today

Olivia Barash had already been acting for over a decade before she had her feature on Little House on the Prairie. After starring on shows like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and fantasy sitcom Out of the Blue, she went on to star on the TV adaptation of musical Fame and police procedural 21 Jump Street. Barash has continued to act, albeit sporadically. She’s now better known behind the camera rather than in front of it and was last heard to be working on a documentary about club The Viper Room.

Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls

Mary is the oldest of the Ingalls children and also the smartest. However, her life is far from easy. Everything she knows is thrown into disarray when scarlet fever leaves her blind at fifteen years old. Although unsure of how to cope without her eyesight, Mary adapts to the change, especially when she enrolls in a blind school. There, she meets her future husband Adam Kendall who she later moves to New York with. The couple has a child together, although he dies in a fire while still a baby.

Melissa Sue Anderson today

Melissa Sue Anderson has done relatively well for herself after leaving the series. Her work on Little House on the Prairie earned her an Emmy nomination, which helped her to land roles in later series like crime drama The Equalizer and Murder, She Wrote. Although she hasn’t appeared in many productions this decade, she does have a role in 2018 heist film The Con is On. Outside of acting, Anderson has also written an autobiography based around her years on the show that made her famous.

Jason Bateman as James Cooper Ingalls

Before he was a famous movie star, Jason Bateman was a main cast member on Little House on the Prairie. He entered the show in season seven as James Cooper Ingalls, a character who doesn’t have a great time of things. Following the loss of his parents, he and his sister end up in the care of a man who hates James, and the two end up running away. The Ingalls decide to adopt the siblings as their own, and only succeed in doing so after much family drama.

Jason Bateman today

There aren’t many people who came out of Little House on the Prairie to quite the same level of stardom. The actor has starred in several incredibly successful movies, including black comedy Horrible Bosses and its sequel, psychological horror The Gift and coming-of-age drama Juno. He’s also lent his voice to prominent film roles, most notably as Nick Wilde in the 2016 Disney animation Zootopia. His appearances on screen, both big and small, have netted him a variety of awards, including a Golden Globe. Bateman is also an accomplished director.