As idyllic as life seemed on Little House on the Prairie, from time to time a patch of turbulence would make an appearance in the off-screen lives of the show’s cast members.
As Melissa Gilbert who played Laura Ingalls on the series described it, friction arose between her and a cast mate after the show’s end.
The situation was so fraught with emotion, it caused her to declare that if she ever saw them again, she was sure a skirmish would break out.
Melissa Gilbert gained fame as Laura Ingalls on ‘Little House’
America watched Gilbert grow up over Little House on the Prairie‘s nine-year run from 1974 – 1983. The drama set in Minnesota in the late 1800s was a big ratings hit throughout that time.
Gilbert told Parade in 2017, “The most formative years of my life — from the time I was nine until I was 19 — were spent on that set. I tell people sometimes that I didn’t grow up in the 1970s. I grew up in the 1870s. It’s who I am.
“That experience shaped me in a huge way as a professional, certainly, but also as a person. I don’t know who I would have been if I hadn’t had that show.”
Shannen Doherty played Jenny on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In the series’ ninth season, Shannen Doherty was introduced in the role of Jenny Wilder, the niece of Laura’s husband Almanzo. Jenny comes to live with the Wilders after her father dies.
She remained on the show throughout the entire ninth season, which was also its final season.
In Prairie Tale, her memoir about life on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert said of Doherty, “Shannen, then 12, was an adorable little girl and very sweet. In her pigtails and dress, she would literally walk in my footsteps, following me closer than my shadow.”
Doherty, according to the ‘Half-Pint’ actor, wanted to look, act, and be just like Gilbert in every way.
“She wanted to know what makeup I wore, what jewelry I liked, and did I prefer my Jordache jeans or my Calvins? She looked up to me even though I was in many ways still a kid myself. In fact, she used to say she wanted to be just like me when she grew up,” Gilbert recalled.
Gilbert learned disturbing news about her husband and Doherty
She explained in her book about a time in her first marriage to Bo Brinkman — 10 years after Little House had ended — when the couple was in counseling. During one therapy session, her husband admitted to having become intimate with Doherty, who by that time was about 22 years old.
“As I was getting back together with my first husband, Bo Brinkman, after a trial separation, we attended therapy sessions,” Gilbert said. “When Bo and I reconciled in therapy, he confessed everything that he’d done during our separation, and his laundry list of dirty deeds included a one-night stand with Shannen. That story in particular irked me.”
Gilbert then described her troubling exchange with Doherty at an Emmy Awards ceremony years after her husband’s admission.
“As I came offstage, Shannen and Luke Perry were in the wings, getting ready to present an award,” she said. “She looked at me and attempted to give me a hug. I pushed her away and said, ‘I don’t think so.’
“I know,” Gilbert told Doherty. “I know what you did with my husband.”
According to Gilbert, the former Beverly Hills 90210 star showed not a whit of remorse or regret.
“She looked me square in the eye,” Gilbert wrote. “I thought I saw a barely perceptible smirk. Then she said, ‘I told you that when I grew up I wanted to be just like you.’”
In 2014, appearing on Watch What Happens Live, host Andy Cohen asked Gilbert if she would greet Doherty if she saw her on the street.
‘I wouldn’t say anything,” Gilbert stated. “I’d just punch her in the nose.”