Melissa Gilbert Was Close With Her On-Screen Father Michael Landon

Melissa Gilbert has opened up about her days on "Little House on the Prairie." Gilbert portrayed Laura Ingalls on the classic television show beginning in 1974, continuing the role until the series' end in 1983. It was a sought-after part in Hollywood, as almost 500 girls reportedly tried out before Gilbert was selected to play Laura, according to Biography. In a 2020 interview with "CBS Sunday Morning", Gilbert revisited positive moments from filming "Little House." "It was like a really great summer camp, but I also got to play the ultimate game of dress up and be in those fantastic clothes and the button-up boots," Gilbert said. "And I don't remember it ever not being fun."

Gilbert's co-stars on the drama series included Karen Grassle, Victor French, Melissa Sue Anderson, and Michael Landon, just to name a few. Landon played Charles "Pa" Ingalls, the father of Gilbert's character. Per the "Little House on the Prairie" website, Landon gained fame earlier in his career as Little Joe in the hit series "Bonanza." Gilbert has since discussed what her relationship with Landon was like off-camera (and it's just wholesome and loving as you'd expect).

Melissa Gilbert called Michael Landon her 'mentor,' 'father figure,' and 'friend'

Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon developed a tight-knit bond as they acted alongside each other on "Little House on the Prairie." In 2014, Gilbert and other "Little House" cast members were interviewed by Entertainment Weekly about their memories from the long-running drama. During the chat, Gilbert spoke about how she and her family members became good friends with Landon and his loved ones amid saddening circumstances. "Our relationship was very close, and it grew even deeper when my father passed away [in 1976]," Gilbert said. "Our families got close. We went on vacation to Hawaii together every Easter. His son Mike Jr. was my prom date."

Per The Washington Post, Landon tragically died in 1991 at the age of 54, which resulted from "inoperable cancer of the liver and pancreas." In July 2022, Gilbert penned a blog post for the Pancreatic Caner Action Network in which she detailed her grief while facing the 31st anniversary of Landon's death. "Today I am missing my mentor, my acting partner, my favorite director, father figure, friend, and boss. Today I am missing my Pa," she wrote. "Today I am missing Michael Landon. So much so, I can feel it in my chest, in my heart. I am aching for him." Over the years, Gilbert has remained close with other actors who were on the beloved show.

The Little House on the Prairie cast is 'like a second family' to Melissa Gilbert

"Little House on the Prairie" introduced Melissa Gilbert to lifelong companions. In 2022, Gilbert praised her co-star Michael Landon's focus on incorporating topical issues into the plot of the series, per the Times Union. "I was always impressed with how [Landon] wanted the 'Little House' stories to open the viewers' eyes to problems going on around us and to hopefully change some of them," Gilbert said. 

Gilbert stopped by "Good Morning America" in 2022 to talk about her memoir, "Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Discovered." The actor confirmed that she and her "Little House" co-stars are friendly to this day. "The remaining surviving cast members still communicate regularly," Gilbert said. "Fortunately, with social media, we're sort of able to email each other, and we support each other... It's really great. It's like a second family." In addition, Gilbert posted "Little House" behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram in July 2022, including a picture she took of Landon on the final day of production. "Those years were some of the most important of my life. How lucky I am to have worked and shared life with that amazing cast and crew," Gilbert wrote.