Closing down a successful show like “Little House on the Prairie” should be worth celebrating. Its finale didn’t sit well with one star.
“I certainly felt uncomfortable with that ending,” Karen Grassle said during a 2004 interview with Dave Lefkowitz on “Dave’s Gone By.”
The series finale had the entire town blow up in an explosion.
“I thought it was a sad way to end it,” she said. “I’m not sure why Michael [Landon] decided to do that, but I have a theory. And my theory is that he had it with ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and that he wanted not to be tempted.
“Because he knew the network would come back and ask him for one or two specials every year,” Grassle said. “There was certainly an audience for it. There still will be today [in 2004]. And I think he wanted not to do that.”
‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Almost Tossed Her Acing Career Away
Grassle played Caroline Ingalls, the matriarch of the family, for nine seasons on NBC. She and Landon, who played Charles Ingalls, portrayed parents to Laura [Melissa Gilbert], Mary [Melissa Sue Anderson], and Carrie [Sidney and Lindsay Greenbush]. That was the main family unit for much of the time “Little House on the Prairie” was on the air.
Other children as part of the Ingalls family included Grace [Wendi and Brenda Turnbaugh], Albert [Matthew Labyorteaux], James [Jason Bateman], and Cassandra [Missy Francis]. Albert, James, and Cassandra were adopted in the show’s storyline. Grace was Charles and Caroline’s child by birth.
There was a time, though, where Grassle considered giving up acting. She was in New York City, looking for jobs and auditioning a lot. It was quite a struggle for her. While nothing popped up there, Grassle did receive an offer to appear in a movie.
One problem: it was being done in Los Angeles. So she took off for L.A. and this movie. Yet her luck, if you will, wasn’t turning out too good. The movie didn’t get made, but someone told her about an audition for this show called “Little House on the Prairie.”
She went and auditioned for the Caroline role. Landon happened to really like her audition. Grassle goes from struggling actress to having nine years of success on a highly-rated TV series.
Grassle Enters Her Audition With Little Knowledge Of Michael Landon’s Stardom
Here’s another kicker for you “Little House on the Prairie” fans. Grassle really didn’t know who Landon was at all before the audition. You’re saying, “Hold on, everyone knows who Michael Landon is!” Well, Grassle didn’t watch television that much.
Mind you, Landon appeared as “Little Joe” Cartwright for 14 seasons on “Bonanza.” That show is the second-longest-running western in TV history, second only to “Gunsmoke” and its 20 seasons on CBS. Millions of people across the United States and even around the world knew of Landon.
Not Grassle. She’d spent a lot of time in the stage world, focusing on becoming the best actress possible. Watching TV wasn’t on her to-do list. It might have been to her advantage that she didn’t know Landon or his previous work at all.
It turns out that, obviously, her audition proved successful. That show gave her some financial stability, too, in her life.