Alison Arngrim, best known to viewers world-wide for her portrayal of the incredibly nasty “Nellie Oleson” on the much loved, long running hit television series “Little House On The Prairie,”continues to amuse audiences through her one woman show “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.”
SD: LHOTP is celebrating its 40th anniversary and Nellie Oleson is still an audience favorite. Why do you think she still carries such a huge impact today?
AA: I think everyone knew someone like Nellie growing up. The viewers loved to hate her. Long ago, I decided I would embrace her instead of trying to get away from her. In the Little House books she is kind of mean. I just took that meanness to the next level. Also, at the times of the books, readers wanted more of her, and the real Laura Ingalls Wilder was getting fan mail and asking her to write more about her. Originally for the TV series, she was just supposed to be a part of a group of children in the background, but again the viewers loved her and Nellie was an iconic hit. I still can’t believe that I am still talking about her 40 years later.
SD: What was your favorite episode that you filmed?
AA: “Bunny,” at its peak it was in 140 countries. I have met lots of great people from around the world.
SD: What was it like working with the cast, especially with Katherine MacGregor (Harriet Olsen)?
AA: The chemistry between the actors was amazing. We all had different acting backgrounds and if I think about it, we all should have not gotten along so good. Katherine is still a very sweet person. She talks like Mrs. Olsen, but swears like a sailor which is very funny when you hear it. At 89 years old, she is still amazing. A few years back, both Katherine and (my TV dad) Richard Bull, who recently passed away, moved into the same retirement home. Having the Olsen’s living in the same place must have been awesome for the residents. Katherine, who is a very private person, was persuaded to give an interview which is included on the “Little House on the Prairie” Blu-ray which was just released.
SD: Can you tell me what your one-woman show “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” is about?
AA: It is not just for fans, it’s for everyone. I’ve had so many husbands tell me that they were dragged to my show by their wives and ended up loving it. I have been doing stand-up for years. I started when I was 16 years old. I was performing “Confessions” before the book was published. At first, I tried to avoid talking about the show and but it never worked. I soon realized that if I didn’t address the “giant prairie elephant in the bonnet” in the room, my show wasn’t going to work. After I talk about “Little House,” I can talk about anything. I always make sure there is a lot of audience participation. I’m just an insane ex-child star who is nuts and I have lots of fun with the audience. I talk about being sexually harassed by Hervé Villechaize while I starred on Fantasy Island, my gay day, and how he worked for Liberace, and also how Michael London didn’t wear underwear. The show is just a lot of fun!!!
SD: Has being an advocate for abused children helped in your own healing process?
AA: Absolutely! The empowerment of the volunteering was good for me. I stopped learning helplessness and took back my power. Political activism has been an awesome opportunity to help change the way people think about abuse. The 23 years of therapy that I went through doesnt compare to the help that I can be to others. I am on the board of Protect. We are fighting to protect the rights of children from abuse. The website is www.protect.org.
Bonus questions –
SD: How much candy did you eat from Oleson’s Mercantile?
AA: It was a ton (she laughs) and I have the fillings to prove it. Although, we didn’t eat the candy that you saw on the counter because that candy was like a hundred years old. To get the good stuff, we had to go see the prop man. Out of all the candy we got to eat, I loved the peppermint sticks.
For more information on Alison Arngrim visit www.hgd.com/alison. Alison will also be performing her one women show “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch”, at The Admirals Inn Resort (www.theadmiralsinn.com) in Ogunquit, ME on Jun 20th – 21st. To purchase tickets to her show www.admiralsinn.ticketsocket.com