Just as “Little House on the Prairie” was beginning to wow audiences with its look at rural life during the late 1800s, star Michael Landon was happily promoting the show to the public. During an interview with Bobbie Wygant in 1974, Landon talked about how he came to be part of it.
“The property was first brought to me by a fella named Ed Friendly, who is co-executive producer of the show,” Landon told Wygant. “I read it and, at this particular time, I had read probably 40 pilots that NBC wanted me to make, the majority of which were murder and mayhem. The rest of them were doctors working on incurable diseases and one man who landed on the wrong planet. … That was another winner.”
One factor in the actor’s decision to be part of “Little House on the Prairie” was his family.
“But, anyway, when this came along it was fresh for me because it was honest and it was simple and it was very basic and I liked the people,” Landon continued. “I thought the people were nice and I kind of felt my family would like to watch that. I got a lot of kids and it’s kind of fun to think you’re going to do a show that you would be happy to sit in the living room with the whole family and watch.
Michael Landon Discusses Success of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Pilot
At the time of Michael Landon’s interview with Wygant, the pilot episode of “Little House on the Prairie” had aired. She points out that it “got the most mail of any pilot that ever has been.”
She also wondered if that was a sign of future success.
“Yes, we got a terrific audience response,” Landon said of the pilot episode. “We were very happy about it…Hopefully, we are going to make some episodes in the future that they are going to like.”
According to Wygant, the early episodes of “Little House” were drawing comparisons to “The Waltons” – another wildly popular family-oriented show. She asked Landon if he resented that comparison.
“No, I don’t resent that. I think it’s an interesting commentary on the state of television. In other words, any show that you have that guarantees non-violence is in fact someway a ‘Waltons’ episode,” Michael Landon said. “If we were doing the future and there was no killing we would be doing a futuristic ‘Waltons’.”
Landon Talks about Show Behind the Scenes
During his interview with Wygant, Michael Landon bragged on the cast and crew who were working with him on the new project.
“We have a good group, super group. Nice cast,” he said. “And, a lot of the guys we had on the ‘Bonanza’ crew are back with us.”
And, just like on his previous hit show, Landon was having fun on his new project.
“It’s the same laughs. That doesn’t change,” he told Wygant. “We have an awful lot of fun on the show. I don’t think you can make shows week-in and week-out and work that kind of schedule if you’re not having a good time.”
Key to the success of “Little House on the Prairie” was the casting of the Ingalls children.
“I think we are very fortunate there,” Landon said during the interview. “I think in Melissa Gilbert and Melissa Sue Anderson and, our little tiny one is actually twins because you can only use a small child three hours a day, so we have Lindsey and Sydney Greenbush. We have many little nicknames for them. They’re really two cute little 4-year-olds. They, together, play baby Carrie.”
On the Future of ‘Little House on the Prairie’
In addition to serving as a producer on “Little House on the Prairie,” Michael Landon was also a director. He told Wygant that he planned to direct four of the first 13 episodes.
When asked if he hoped his new show ran as long as “Bonanza,” Landon made a joke, then talked about the logistics of it running for years.
“Well, I don’t know if it can run that long because I’m getting so tired,” he joked. “No. The difference here is that our kids are going to grow up very fast. It would be interesting to see what would happen, but I don’t think the show itself can run 14 years and still have me in it. It’s not like Bonanza where we can make it all up. These books are factual and the girls are going to grow up, they’re going to get married, and they’re not going to live with me anymore. So, the series itself may continue, but at a given point it would have to go with Laura and her husband and their own family.”
Watch Michael Landon’s interview with Bobbie Wygant below.