How Michael Landon Comforted Melissa Gilbert During Emotional 'Little House' Finale
Melissa Gilbert started her acting career at the age of 10 and became a celebrated child star on Little House on the Prairie. The series delighted viewers all over the world for nearly 10 years, making for an emotional goodbye in 1983. Now, Gilbert has revealed what the finale was like for her behind the scenes and how co-star Michael Landon helped her through it.
Melissa Gilbert, 56, had her TV breakthrough as "Laura Ingalls" on the classic series Little House on the Prairie. However, as ratings for the series continued to decline, it was eventually cancelled in 1983. A few TV movies followed, but this marked the end of an era after nine seasons.
Little House ends with the residents of "Walnut Grove" deciding to blow up their city because they don't want to work for a powerful railroad tycoon. And the creators really —truly — did blow up the entire set where the fictional society had filmed for 10 years.
Melissa Gilbert on Little House on the Prairie finale
In a 2011 interview, Melissa Gilbert remembered the explosive times on the Little House set. "They blew everything up and it was Michael [Landon]'s way of saying 'No one else is going to shoot here. This was mine,'" she explained. "The day before we shot the final scene where we blow everything up, they came in and actually — the crew and Michael — did the special effects of literally blowing up these buildings."
For the crew, it was "extraordinary" when they came on set the next day to shoot the final scene where the "Walnut Grove" residents walk amid the rubble of the city. "We all walked down into town from the trailers together and rounded the corner and it was gone," Gilbert recalled.
Michael Landon comforted Melissa Gilbert on Little House finale
For Gilbert, the farewell was very emotional, but she found solace in the fact that the series finale truly gave them a "chance to say goodbye." She also recalled how a tearful Michael Landon comforted her on set.
"I went back just to look one more time before I left and Michael was standing in the middle—by himself—of all of this rubble," she said. "And I walked over to him and he put his arm around me. He was crying and I started crying, and I said to him, you know, 'I'm scared.'
"And he said, 'Don't be scared.' He said, 'For you this is just the beginning.' And we walked away, back to the cars and the trailers together, arm in arm. At that moment, I didn't feel any better, but he was right — it really was just the beginning."
65 years old today, Gilbert is still active as an actress. She appeared most recently in the series Secrets and Lies and in the 2019 drama When We Last Spoke.