While the Little House on the Prairie cast typically had a great time working on the show, conflict arose from time to time. Katherine MacGregor, who played Harriet Oleson, and Richard Bull, who played Nels Oleson, had to overcome some big differences when they first met.
In an interview with Bull and MacGregor, they discussed the conflict. Macgregor said that as a stage actress, she liked to talk to her fellow actors about their Little House on the Prairie characters. When she went up to Bull to discuss one of their first scenes together, the TV actor felt offended. He assumed that she was trying to direct him.
“I said ‘wait a minute, Katherine. You don’t direct me. I don’t direct you. You don’t direct me,’” Bull said. Of course, this must have been shocking to MacGregor and Bull both, so they didn’t get off on the best foot.
“Finally, what we did,” MacGregor said, “We started rehearsing together.” For the two Little House on the Prairie actors, Rehearsing together allowed Katherine to spitball ideas off of Bull in a way he understood.
“That was it. From then on,” Bull said, “We worked perfectly together.”
“I love Richard,” MacGregor laughed, “He’s marvelous.”
The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Parents got along Well with TV Children
Even though the Oleson’s were the antagonists of Little House on the Prairie, off-camera, the actors had loads of fun. Alison Arngrim, who played “nasty” Nellie, has said her TV parents were very parental to her off-camera.
“The two of them together had such chemistry. They were like another set of parents,” Arngrim said of her Little House on the Prairie parents. “They felt very parental toward me and were always. Well, Katherine would boss you around and give you advice, and Richard was very protective. And it was fascinating to watch them because clearly, they were highly trained actors and the two of them were also very close friends.”
The interview with The Little House on the Prairie star took place shortly before MacGregor passed away in 2018. Arngrim also praised MacGregor for who she was at the time. “She’s brilliant,” Arngrim said, “She’s not mean like Mrs. Oleson, but she’s crazy like Mrs. Oleson,” she joked, further saying that MacGregor was a “very eccentric woman,” with an “unbelievably huge personality.”
Even though it took MacGregor and Bull a bit of time to get used to each other on the set of Little House on the Prairie, their portrayal of the Olesons was truly iconic. Their acting just got better and better the more their chemistry grew. For Arngrim, this meant her TV parents felt like parental figures on set, and she had nothing but kind words to say about the both of them even decades after the show ended.