They Starred on ‘Little House’? Johnny Cash, Jason Bateman & More!
Life was never easy on the frontier, but in the classic family drama Little House on the Prairie (1974-83), it was the perfect set to start a career for young actors and a welcoming place for veteran performers as well. Much of the credit goes to Michael Landon, who served as director, producer and star. Landon played the patriarch of the Ingalls family, he was Walnut Grove’s warm pillar of strength, who protected and guided his family through first loves and heartbreaking losses.
Take a look at some of these familiar faces who joined Landon and the rest of the cast on Little House on the Prairie during its nine-season run.
The brilliant Ozark star and creator got his start at age 12 on Little House as James Cooper, a young boy orphaned after his parents are killed in an accident. Charles and Caroline Ingalls adopted James and his sister Cassandra, and the two became somewhat regulars on the series starting in Season 7. “I had a very fortunate first experience. My first big job, Little House on the Prairie, had Michael Landon as the director, actor, producer — and sometimes writer,” Bateman told The Guardian. “There’s this theory that you need to scream at people to get them to work their hardest. I saw by example there that the opposite is true.”
“Well, I never put my stock in the pearly gates. It always sounded like a bunch of froo froo to me,” the country legend professed as Caleb Hodgekiss, an ex-con who takes in Rev. Alden in Season 3. June Carter Cash played his onscreen wife as well. The couple is actually pictured from the 1978 CBS film Thaddeus Rose and Eddie.
The Beverly Hills, 90210 phenom Shannen Doherty showed up for four episodes of the last season (Season 9) as Jenny Wilder, a niece to Almanzo. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura, noted in her book Prairie Talk, “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. 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.” [She’s pictured first row, center, right under Melissa.]
Sean Penn’s father, Leo Penn, directed three episodes of Little House on the Prairie, and he cast Sean in an uncredited role in 1974-75 when he was about 14 years old. One of the days shooting, Sean actually fainted because of the extreme heat. Melissa Gilbert shared the story in her podcast.
While he will forever be known as Ralphie from A Christmas Story, Peter Billingsley played Gideon Hale, a young boy with a stuttering problem on Little House in a Season 8 episode. He’s pictured from A Christmas Story.
The famed star who headlined classics like From Here to Eternity (1953), The Wild Bunch (1969) and McHale’s Navy (1962-66) made a special guest appearance in a two-part Season 1 episode as Jonathan, a guardian angel sent to Walnut Grove to help Laura Ingalls after her mother miscarried.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards appeared in roughly 18 episodes, starting at just 5. She starred as Alicia Sanderson Edwards, the adopted daughter of Mr. Edwards (Victor French) and his wife Grace (Bonnie Bartlett). “I had such a happy time on Little House,” Richards shared. “We kids did everything together. Played dress up, went to dinner, had fights — it was a lot like my relationships with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, except back then there were fewer wild animals.”
An endearing Todd Bridges was only about 12,when he had to confront Charles Ingalls on white supremacy in the Season 3 episode “The Wisdom of Solomon.” Bridges said that “Michael Landon made me feel just like family. He was one of the nicest people I had met, especially older actors I’ve met on a set. He made me feel like I really was his son, which was really, really great.”
The Eight Is Enough and Charles in Charge heartthrob appeared in a 1977 episode of the series, just after his 20-episode run on Swiss Family Robinson (1975-76). He’s pictured from Swiss Family Rominson.
No surprise that Walnut Groove’s Dr. Baker (Kevin Hagen), fell for Hollywood starlet Anne Archer who guest starred as Mrs. Oleson’s niece Kate who was visiting. Archer went on to star in beloved films like Fatal Attraction (1987), Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). Pictured in 1980’s Hero at Large.
Louis Gossett Jr.
The Season 2 episode “The Long Road Home” had Louis Gossett Jr., starring as Henry Hill, one of the men working with explosive liquid dynamite. He’s pictured in one of his most beloved roles — in 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman.