Little House on the Prairie made Melissa Gilbert (56) and Alison Arngrim (58) world-famous. For eight years they played the enemies "Laura Ingalls" and "Nellie Oleson".
But not everyone was enthusiastic about Alison's role. Things were even thrown at the actress as she recently revealed in an interview. Furthermore, Arngrim didn't have it easy on the set at the beginning of her career, as she wrote in her book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.
Alison Arngrim had confidence issues
Alison landed her Little House on the Prairie role when she was twelve years old and was still very shy. Although Arngrim played the spoiled and rich girl "Nellie Oleson" in the series, the actress had some problems with self-confidence and tried to hold back among her fellow actors.
"I sometimes had trouble talking to 'new people' one on one," wrote Arngrim in her book. "I was now faced with a cast and crew of over a hundred, some of them with rather intimidating personalities, to say the least – I had hoped I could just show up, do my job, and lay low, but it was not to be."
Melissa Gilbert stood up for Alison Arngrim
But when Arngrim's shyness on set was perceived as "diva" behavior, Gilbert set out to help her friend. "Midway through the first season, my agent called my father to report that my shyness had been taken for 'haughtiness' or unfriendliness," the actress recalled. "There were actual rumors that I was 'difficult' or a diva. This was considered serious enough to possibly affect my employment."
Melissa, then nine years old, tried to help her friend and called a meeting in her dressing room. During lunch together, the "Laura Ingalls" actress tried to get to the bottom of the rumors. It turned out that this rumor came from a parent on the set.
"Melissa was not surprised," said Arngrim. "She explained to the girls that in this sort of competitive environment, it would not be unheard of for a stage mother to start rumors about another girl in the hopes of getting her fired and furthering her own child’s career. But, she cautioned, we must not let them get away with it."
Melissa Gilbert called on her colleagues to act as a team and said: "'There’s going to be a lot of stuff like this, people trying to turn us against each other. … If any of you hear anything about one of us – especially if it comes from one of the stage moms – you come to me first, okay?'", the Little House on the Prairie actress recalled in her book.
According to Alison Arngrim, Melissa Gilbert's approach actually worked because the girls in the cast eventually began to take care of each other and look out for one another.