Little House on the Prairie

‘Little House on the Prairie’: Alison Arngrim Considered Katherine MacGregor and Richard Bull ‘Another Set of Parents’

Alison Arngrim rose to fame as mean girl Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Playing the spoiled daughter of Walnut Grove’s wealthy merchants Nels (Richard Bull) and Harriett (Katherine MacGregor), Arngrim described working with the pair and how there were some similarities to their onscreen personas.

Alison Arngrim praised her ‘Little House’ co-star Richard Bull

Bull portrayed the mild-mannered, henpecked husband of Harriet on Little House for the entire run of the series, which ended in 1983. Arngrim raved of Bull’s gentle nature and spoke of his likeness to Nels.

“Richard was voted most like his character,” Arngrim told “He really was very much like Mr. Oleson. Very calm and sensible. The voice of reason on the set. Such a kind man. And a brilliant actor.”

The Little House alum described some of Bull’s other roles which were quite a stretch from the meek Walnut Grove merchant.

“I mean, he had played heavies and villains and things,” Arngrim remarked. ‘He was a graduate of the Goodman School in Chicago. A brilliant stage actor and he continued to work very late in life.  Really incredible stuff.”

Katherine MacGregor added comedy to ‘Little House’

Describing MacGregor’s strong screen presence, Arngrim shared how the theater actor was able to bring both drama and levity through Mrs. Oleson.

“When she came on the screen, there was no one else there,” Arngrim wrote in her 2010 book, Confessions of a Prairie B****. “Her performance was mesmerizing, hilarious, outrageous. And on those occasions when Mrs. Oleson was in one of her pouting and wounded moments, even weirdly moving.”

Arngrim commended MacGregor’s acting talent and noted how much depth she brought to Little House.

“Her acting was absolute genius,” Arngrim said of MacGregor. “There was no denying it. No matter what she said or did, it simply worked. The show could not function without her.”

‘Little House’ stars made TV magic

Arngrim pointed out that despite their contrasting personalities, Bull and MacGregor were pure gold onscreen. The former Little House star saw them as parental figures during her many years on the historical drama.

“The two of them together had such chemistry,” Arngrim commented. “They were like another set of parents. They felt very parental toward me… Katherine would boss ya around and give ya advice and Richard was very protective.”

Though they had their disagreements, Bull and MacGregor developed a solid bond off camera. Arngrim expressed her gratitude for her relationship with the two actors.

“It was fascinating to watch them because clearly, they were highly trained actors and the two of them were also very close friends,” Arngrim said. “Sometimes when you’d hear them arguing off camera, you’d think it was Nels and Harriet the way they went on. I mean it was really like having an additional set of parents. It was incredible.”

Bull died in February 2014 at 89 years old. MacGregor died in November 2018 at the age of 93.

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