Little House on the Prairie ran for nine seasons from 1974 to 1983 and managed to feature several surprising guest stars. Created by Michael Landon, who played Charles Ingalls, this beloved TV show has captured the hearts of generations of fans. Based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular “Little House” book series, it gained fame for its emotionally charged episodes.
Little House on the Prairie famously guest-starred established names such as Johnny Cash and Ernest Borgnine. However, it also helped up-and-coming actors catch their first big break.
Future Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson made his way to the Prarie back in 1981. Hudson portrayed William Thomas in the season eight episode “Chicago”. In this episode, Mr. Edwards discovers the tragic news of his son’s murder in the Windy City. Hudson recently shared his experience working with director Michael Landon, calling it “a blessing.”
Jason Bateman Made His Hollywood Debut on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
Jason Bateman began his acting career at 12 on Little House on the Prairie as James Cooper, an orphan after his parents died. Charles and Caroline Ingalls adopted James and his sister Cassandra, who appeared regularly from Season 7. Bateman appeared in 20 episodes before moving on to other roles in sitcoms like Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family.
Ralphie from A Christmas Story also appeared on Little House on the Prairie (alongside Bateman). Peter Billingsley popped up in the season eight episode “No Beast So Fierce”. Billingsley portrayed the character of Gideon Hale, a young boy facing the challenge of stuttering.
Beverly Hills, 90210, and Mallrats star Shannen Doherty made a guest appearance in four episodes of Season 9. She portrayed the character Jenny Wilder, who is Almanzo’s niece.
Sean Penn Passes Out on the Prairie
Leo Penn, father of Sean Penn, directed three episodes of Little House on the Prairie between 1973 and 1974. The teenage Penn was essentially just a glorified extra. Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie recalled the now gruff actor passing out on set due to the extreme heat. “This big teenage boy went down like a sack of potatoes!” Arngrim told Yahoo Entertainment in 2021. “And he didn’t get back up again: I always got back up again. He was down for the day.”
Louis Gossett Jr.
Louis Gossett Jr. starred as Henry Hill in the Season 2 episode titled “The Long Road Home”. Hill was among the individuals involved in handling explosive liquid dynamite. He would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in 1982’s An Officer and a Gentlemen.
Todd Bridges Delivered a Powerful Performance on ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In 1978, Todd Bridges became famous starring with Gary Coleman in the successful sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. At just 12 years old, he showcased his acting chops as Solomon in the season 3 episode of Little House on the Prairie, titled “The Wisdom of Solomon,” where he addressed the issue of racism with Charles Ingalls.
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