Raise your hand if you remember Melissa Sue Anderson – she was one of the biggest child actresses of the 1970s, getting her big break as Mary Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. She maintained that role for eight seasons between 1974 and 1983 – she was 11 years old at the start and 21 years old at the end.
It was a popular role that received a lot of praise, including being nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. It was her only such nomination and while she was at the height of her career, she wasn’t exactly winning over any of her fellow cast members at the time.
In fact, her behavior on the set of Little House on the Prairie was often described as ‘standoff-ish’ and ‘aloof,’ which couldn’t be further from the truth – at least to those who knew the real her. Nonetheless, it’s something a majority of her colleagues believe and have even expressed publicly in the years since.
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For example, Melissa Gilbert wrote about Melissa Sue Anderson in a 2009 memoir titled Prairie Tale: A Memoir. “There was a distance to her, a coldness, though sometimes I wonder if it was just that I never knew how to get her to let me in… She wasn’t easy to get along with,” Gilbert wrote, unapologetically.
Gilbert played Laura Ingalls – Anderson’s character’s sister. Despite playing sisters in front of the camera, they never quite formed that type of bond when the cameras were off. She could never really figure out why, but ‘for whatever reason, we never had a real sisterly kinship,” she added.
Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Olesen on Little House on the Prairie, was getting similar vibes from Melissa Sue Anderson during their time on the show. In fact, Arngrim got candid about her relationship and overall thoughts regarding Anderson in a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly.
[Anderson] looked at Melissa Gilbert and me like we were total juvenile delinquents,” Arngrim told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. “I think she thought we would get her in trouble if she hung out with us, which is perfect for her character because Mary was such a little narc,” said Arngrim back in 2014.
What is Melissa Sue Anderson Up to Now?
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Melissa Sue Anderson was cast on a variety of TV shows and films, though she never had a role as popular as Mary Ingalls again. Her most recent role was in The Con Is On, which was released in 2018. While she hasn’t landed a big role, she hasn’t necessarily stayed quiet.
After marrying Michael Sloan in 1990 and having two kids, the family packed their things and moved to Montreal in 2002 – they became naturalized Canadians in 2007. Three years later, in 2010, Melissa Sue Anderson wrote her first autobiography titled The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House.
As for the way her former co-stars perceived her during their time on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Sue Anderson has no hard feelings towards anyone and doesn’t believe there’s any bad blood between her and any of the other characters. In fact, she says she was just being ‘shy’ and serious about her work.
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“People thought I was aloof. But I was really just shy. I was serious about what I did – I wanted to do a great job,” said Melissa Sue Anderson in a 2010 interview with PopEntertainment. Whether she meant it or not, it’s what her co-stars felt at the time – though they never gave her an opportunity to explain.
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