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Alison Arngrim On 'Little House On The Prairie' Resurgence: "Michael Knew"

Alison Arngrim in 2019
March 22, 2021 - 21:38 / Sarah Schulz

Alison Arngrim became known worldwide as "Nellie Oleson" in Little House on the Prairie. The actress spoke to Promipool about her career and the Little House on the Prairie boom in recent years. 

In the seventies and eighties, Little House on the Prairie was a hit on TV and made the entire cast famous. Michael Landon is said to have known even then that the series had cult status and was watched by fans around the world, as Alison Arngrim (59) revealed to Promipool

Promipool: Hello Ms. Arngrim, how has the pandemic affected your work?

Alison Arngrim: When it hit, I had all these bookings. I was supposed to be in Ireland, I was supposed to be in Paris. Everything was canceled, so I was a little concerned about what I was going to do all day. Then I started reading the little house books online and now I do stand-up comedy shows online.

I do all kinds of stuff online, and it's crazy. I speak into my phone and my computer now, but it's working. But a lot of friends have been sick. A couple friends died, and a lot of my friends have lost their parents in the last two months. It’s bad. 

How does it work for you, just speaking into the computer and not having any feedback from the audience?

My husband Bob runs the camera while I'm doing my online show and he laughs in all the right places. And the fans can type things. And I'll say something and he'll go thumbs up because they're typing that that was really funny. But it's very weird. I'm shouting in the middle of my living room with the cats and talk back to a computer.

But the fans are then Facebooking me, emailing me, telling me that that was the best thing ever. “We had so much fun and we laughed so hard.” And they now have some platforms, a friend of mine is doing virtual cabaret where you can see the audience. I may be trying that one. 

That must be very weird...

It's weird, but it's better than not doing it. I've seen some really, really creative stuff. People have been doing the craziest stuff online. And I'm very impressed with what they've come up with. I started cooking, cooking like "Nellie Oleson". It's for people who don't know how to cook. And I just joined TikTok

Alison Arngrim as "Nellie" in "Little House on the Prairie"

There actually have been two pandemic episodes in Little House. Can you remember them?

Yes, we had all these fans telling us! All these very young people on Twitter who never watched the show before are watching it now and said: “Hey, there's an episode called Quarantine, there’s an episode called Plague and they go into lockdown. What is happening?” And they were also amazed by the episode The Wisdom of Solomon with Todd Bridges, where racism was dealt with very, very graphically and head on. People are now rediscovering the show and how serious some of the issues were on it.

But a lot of people said that it's comforting. They said, they watch this poor family, the Ingalls. All these terrible, terrible things, much worse things keep happening to them and they stick together and they get through it.

Little House on the Prairie started around forty years ago - 

Forty-seven years ago, to be exact. We're planning a big deal for the fiftieth anniversary and I'm sure, we will be able to congregate by person by then. So that'll be fun

Back then, forty-seven years ago, did you think that you would still be famous all those years later? 

Absolutely not. Nobody thought so but Michael Landon. Michael knew that he tapped into something, he knew he hit a nerve. This resurgence, it started in the 90s, the cable and then the DVDs, and then it just started to blow up and now it's insane. More people are watching it now than ever watched darn thing when it was on. No one believed back then that in 2021, people would be talking about Little House.

No one? 

Michael knew because during the very last episodes, Melissa Gilbert told me, she and Michael were walking around and Michael said: “You know, long after we're all gone, they're going to be watching these shows.” And she thought he was crazy.

We're all very honored. We're all very, very flattered. We're all absolutely stunned that it is popular now. And people are getting some relief, some feeling of comfort from our show that we had a really good time making. We are all stunned and honored.

Thank you for the interview! 

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