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Melissa Gilbert Says She Learned about Family and Community From Starring in 'Little House on the Prairie'

Screengrab via YouTube/ ASSOCIATED PRESS

It's been 35 years since Little House on the Prairie aired its final episode, but that hasn't stopped later generations from watching, loving and learning from the Emmy-winning TV series. Since its debut in 1974, Little House on the Prairie has never been off television -- its episodes are still aired in syndication, allowing even more folks to fall in love with the Ingalls family.

Series star Melissa Gilbert is among those who continue to sing the show's praises. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning from her farm in Sullivan County, New York (the "Little House in the Catskills," as she calls it), Gilbert reflected on her iconic role of Laura Ingalls.

"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. I don't remember it ever not being fun," Gilbert says.

Gilbert says the series continues to resonate with people today and serves as a reminder of what we're capable of as a country.

"Little House on the Prairie is a reminder of when things were simpler for us in our lives those 45 years ago," Gilbert said. "Little House on the Prairie, then, reminded people of what we went through when we started this country and how difficult that was and I think we're at that place again. If we could've done what we did in the 1800s and the 1970s, we can do this. The keys are going to be compassion, community, faith -- whatever that faith looks like -- love, that's it. That's all that matters."

Gilbert, who began starring on the NBC show at the age of 9, says she learned several important values and life lessons through her 10 years working on the series.

"I absorbed so much without even realizing what I was learning -- really important life lessons about family, community, tolerance -- because I was saying all these things and having to understand all these things, they became a part of what I learned as well," Gilbert says.

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Gilbert says the values of the popular series were a direct reflection of actor, executive producer, writer, and director Michael Landon, who portrayed Charles Ingalls (Pa Ingalls). Landon, who also starred on Bonanza, passed away from cancer in 1991 when he was just 54 years old.

"The shows values were a reflection of the values of our leader, Michael Landon. He was that man. He believed that people are always really good at heart and that anyone is redeemable and that the only way to change things is to do it from a place of love and fairness and understanding," Gilbert said. "It's unfortunate for so many reasons that he passed away when he did because I think his voice would've been an incredibly important voice to have today."

The Little House on the Prairie series was based based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's popular Little House book series, based on her childhood in a pioneer family, growing up in Walnut Grove, Michigan.

Melissa Gilbert previously served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild and competed on season 14 of Dancing With the Stars. She's been married to actor Timothy Busfield since 2013. (She was previously married to Bo Brinkman and Bruce Boxleitner.)

In addition to her role on Little House on the Prairie, Gilbert has starred in The Miracle Worker and The Diary of Anne Frank. She also voiced the role of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) in Batman: The Animated Series. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.

Gilbert's Little House journey came full circle when she portrayed Caroline "Ma" Ingalls, a role helmed by Karen Grassle in the series, in the touring musical Little House on the Prairie in 2008.

 

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Melissa Gilbert Says She Learned about Family and Community From Starring in 'Little House on the Prairie'