Little House on the Prairie

‘Little House on the Prairie’: Caroline Ingalls Actor Karen Grassle Based Her Character on Someone Close to Her

Which real-life person did “Little House on the Prairie” actress Karen Grassle base her character on?

They say that we are the sum of our experiences. Every person we meet, place we live and experience we have contributes to who we are as people. So it makes sense that actors would bring their own experiences to the characters they play. That was certainly the case for actress Karen Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” Yes, Caroline Ingalls was a real-life person, so Grassle obviously based the character on her. But there was another woman Grassle pulled from to create her character on the show. During an interview in 2020, Grassle revealed that she based her character on her own mother.

“I based her on my mother,” said Grassle. “If you read [Laura Ingalls Wilder’s] books and see photos, Caroline was very tough and sturdy. My mother rode a horse barefoot to school, and as a young woman, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse! So I took her character, strength, and wisdom and infused Caroline with that.”

Karen Grassle Said She Struggled With Typecasting After ‘Little House On The Prairie’

Starring on a hit television show for nine years is pretty cool because everyone knows who you are. However, starring on a hit television show can also be tough as an actor because everyone knows who you are. Agents know exactly who you played and they are reluctant to give you a different type of character. Karen Grassle struggled to break out of her previous role after “Little House on the Prairie” ended. Luckily, she was able to joke about being typecast during the same 2020 interview.

“Yeah, a lot of scripts were sent to me with people who wore a bun,” said Grassle laughing. “I did [have trouble getting roles after], but my priorities shifted because I wanted to have a family, so I was putting less energy into acting than I was into figuring out how to be a stepmom and have a child.”

Although Grassle never had biological children of her own. She adopted the two children of her former husband, Alan Radford. And the two adopted a son, Zach. So, how does Karen Grassle compare to the onscreen mom she played on “Little House on the Prairie?”

“I would fall very short! That show was an idealized version of family life,” said Grassle. “But I did the best I could. Much of the time I was a single mom, and that has its own challenges.[Yet] I love so much about being a mom.”

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