For actress Melissa Gilbert, scoring the role of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie was life-changing. It was only just the beginning of her long acting career, with credits ranging from popular television series to movies. Scroll to learn more about what happened to Melissa after finding fame.
How Did Melissa Get Her Start in Acting?
Melissa was adopted by Paul Gilbert and his wife, Barbara Crane, after she was born in 1964. Paul was an actor himself, growing up in a family of vaudeville performers, and later starred in the 1954 comedy series The Duke on NBC. Barbara also grew up in a family of entertainers, with her father, Harry Crane, creating the show The Honeymooners in 1955.
As a toddler, Melissa began appearing in commercials before snagging roles in episodes of Gunsmoke and Emergency! in 1972. In 1974, the California native was cast in Little House on the Prairie, starring alongside Michael Landon, Karen Grassle and her adopted brother, Jonathan Gilbert, for nine seasons. The former child actress has fond memories from the set of the Western drama.
“As a child, it was the best game of dress-up anyone has ever played in the history of the world,” Melissa told Closer in September 2020. “But not just the costumes. I had actual high-button shoes and I had to learn how to use a button hook to do them up. All of our costumes were authentic.”
What Happened to Melissa After ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Ended?
Melissa was 19 years old when Little House on the Prairie came to an end. However, she continued to thrive as an actress, starring in several television films like 1984’s Family Secrets and 1986’s Choices. In the early ‘90s, the beauty voiced Batgirl in the animated Batman series on Fox.
Though the Young Artist Award winner credits her role in Little House on the Prairie for launching her career, she revealed in a November 2017 interview with Closer that she would not return if the show was rebooted.
“Little House went into syndication while it was on the air and is still on the air every day all over the world, so there’s no need to reboot it,” she said.
Despite having no desire to return for a series reboot, Melissa did portray Caroline “Ma” Ingalls in the musical adaptation of the show beginning in 2008. The Dancing With the Stars alum also previously served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005.
Does She Have Kids?
Melissa was dating actor Rob Lowe when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985. After a brief engagement, they went their separate ways in the late ‘80s. The Sweet Justice alum married her first husband, Bo Brinkman, in 1988. The pair welcomed one son together, Dakota Paul Brinkman, in 1989. The couple split in 1994.
During her second marriage to Bruce Boxleitner from 1995 to 2011, Melissa became a mother once more. They welcomed their son, Michael Garrett Boxleitner, in 1995. She also became a stepmother to his two children, Sam Boxleitner and Lee Boxleitner, from a previous relationship.
The Hometown Christmas actress married her third husband, Timothy Busfield, in 2013. The couple did not have any children together, however, she welcomed his three children from a previous relationship, Samuel Busfield, Daisy Busfield and Wilson Busfield, into the family with open arms.
Where Is Melissa Now?
Since becoming a Hollywood star, Melissa has also become a grandmother and developed a new passion: farming! The television star detailed her journey to becoming a farmer and moving to upstate New York with Timothy in her 2022 memoir, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered.
The pair began living in a cabin where they had to learn how to build fires and keep them going all winter long. “I thought I had the brownest thumb,” Melissa recounted. “But I planted this garden, and it miraculously grew. We had all these wonderful vegetables!”
Still, she is extremely thankful for her experience living on the prairie in the hit television show. “I aspire to be courageous in everything I do, and a lot of that is like Laura,” she says. “My time on Little House really influenced my desire to have this life that I have.”