Forty years ago, Melissa Gilbert made her television series debut as young Laura Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie." From 1974 to 1984, a captive audience followed the 19th-century farm life of the hard-working Ingalls family, which included Michael Landon as Laura's dad Charles Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson as her older sister Mary and Alison Arngrim as her brazen rival Nellie. Gilbert was an adult by the time the "Little House" series finale aired, and says that growing up on the show and surrounded by her costars left quite an impact.
In this weekend's interview airing on "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", Gilbert explains just how influential "Little House on the Prairie" was on her entire life.
"It shaped me in so many ways," she says. "I learned from the best! I had Michael Landon as a boss, and he was brilliantly talented."
Thanks in part to the talent of the entire cast, "Little House" became a popular show with incredible staying power. "The show's never been off the air. It went into syndication while we were shooting it," Gilbert says. "Forty years. All over the world."
The now-50-year-old actress has a special place in her heart for the late Landon, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1991, but reveals that a different costar became one of her absolute favorites.
"My closest friend on the show who I hung out with the most growing up was Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie -- who was my archrival," Gilbert says. Watch Arngrim open up about a secret she kept while working on the series.
As characters, Laura and Nellie feuded, competed and clashed (even getting into a memorable mud fight), but off-camera, Arngrim and Gilbert's relationship couldn't be more different.
"We loved each other," Gilbert says. "We had sleepovers at each other's houses. We were at each other's birthday parties."
Though the two are all grown up, Gilbert says that their friendship remains strong even after all these years. "We're still really close," she says.
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