Little House on the Prairie

‘Little House on the Prairie’: The Day Nellie Olsen Actor Alison Arngrim Knew She and This Co-Star Would Be Best Friends

Little House on the Prairie was one of the most popular dramas on 1970s and early 1980s television for its feel-good family viewing.

No matter what happened, by the end of each episode set in 1800s Minnesota, you knew there would be hugs, tears, and declarations of love.

Among two of the least likely of the show’s stars, a lasting friendship bloomed.

Alison Arngrim played Nellie Oleson on ‘Little House’

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson, 1977
Little House on the Prairie | NBCU Photo Bank

Arngrim, who played the deliciously villainous Nellie Oleson on the series has kept herself busy promoting the Little House brand in every way possible. In 2015, she told The Huffington Post that the prairie series is overwhelmingly big in France.

“Huge! I’m there a couple months a year,” she said.

“Then I went from France to Texas for a quilting convention because I am doing a Little House On The Prairie fabric line and they are really gorgeous fabrics. It’s called Andover Fabrics and some of the designs are actually based on 1800s fabric patterns. They did a Downton Abbey line of fabrics and now they’re doing a Prairie line.”

She and Melissa Gilbert became best friends

A scene from 'Little House on the Prairie'
A scene from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

On Little House, Arngrim’s on-screen nemesis was Melissa Gilbert’s Laura Ingalls. But in real life, the two actors became the most unlikely best friends.

After one day collapsing from the extreme heat on the show’s set, Arngrim was taken to her dressing room to rest. When she exited, she learned who her newest friend was.

“When I finally emerged somewhere between a half hour and forty-five minutes later, I was greeted by Melissa Gilbert,” Arngrim wrote in her 2010 memoir Confessions of a Prairie B*tch. “She had waited outside my dressing room the entire time, pacing back and forth like an expectant father at a maternity ward.”

Arngrim learned something new that day. “That was the day I knew Melissa loved me and I her,” she said. “It was the beginning of a great friendship.”

Arngrim and Gilbert are still besties

Good friends Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim in 2009
Good friends Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim in 2009 | Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage

Even after all these years, the two women are still great friends. They may no longer be having sleepovers at each other’s homes as they did as children and young adults, but they’re still involved in one another’s lives.

“My closest friend on the show who I hung out with the most growing up was Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie — who was my archrival,” Gilbert told The Huffington Post in 2014.

Gilbert, who recently had successful back surgery, told The Huffington Post that the two are still very tight.

That’s a long way to come for the two characters they played on the series: the conniving, merciless Nellie Oleson and the tough yet sweet tomboy Laura Ingalls. From candy to horses and eventually to Almanzo Wilder, the two were constantly fighting over something. In real life, not at all.

“We loved each other,” Gilbert said. “We had sleepovers at each other’s houses. We were at each other’s birthday parties. We’re still really close.”

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