Caroline served as the backbone of the Ingall family in Little House on the Prairie. Though Karen Grassle brought the character to life and played her brilliantly, it may surprise you to learn she actually wasn’t a huge fan of her at first.
Speaking to Fox News recently, Karen Grassle talked about her memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust: Reflections on Life, Loss, and Love from Little House’s Ma. As you might think, it largely covers her time on the show, but it also talks about her alcoholism struggles and upbringing. Interestingly, though she scored the role at a critical moment in her life, she wasn’t crazy about her character.
“When I first read the script, I thought, “Oh, she’s kind of a downer. She’s prudish,” Grassle confessed to the news outlet. “I hadn’t read the books, so I had a lot of catching up to do. And there wasn’t the same kind of research about the Ingalls that we have today.”
However, much like how we came to love the character, Grassle did too. “But as I started doing the role and interacting with the children, I gained a new perspective for my character. She’s a woman who’s so brave and loyal heading into the wilderness with her little girls. She wanted to create a better life for them. I began to experience the nobility of the character and what she truly represented.”
It’s a good thing she gained this perspective, as it’s difficult to imagine someone else playing the iconic mother.
Karen Grassle Said her Life Didn’t Resemble Caroline Ingall’s
As stated, it’s difficult to imagine anyone but Karen Grassle playing Caroline Ingall. She said she thought the character was “kind of a downer,” but that could in large part be because their lives and perspectives were quite different.
Appearing on John Cowan’s show Real Life with John Cowan, Grassle talked about various Little House on the Prairie topics. After reading through Grassle’s memoir himself, he couldn’t help but mention at one point how starkly Caroline and Karen differed from one another.
“Well, yeah,” Grassle bluntly stated. “You know, I was a woman who gained her maturity in the sixties. We were breaking things wide open, ya know? With the pill, with –all of the sudden- no fear of pregnancy. So, there was the sexual revolution. And, I was in Berkley and there was the Free Speech Movement. That led right into the Vietnam anti-war movement. So, there was a lot going on, ya know?”
Grassle also pointed out the fact these were small stories told on a television show without the intent of being realistic. She also makes an excellent point about how “freeing” the 60s were.
Who knows, maybe if Caroline was real and had been alive at that time, the two would be similar.