In contrast to Nellie Oleson, the sneeringly snobby, sausage-curled nightmare she performed for seven seasons in Nineteen Seventies tv’s immortal Little Home on the Prairie, actor Alison Arngrim couldn't be hotter or extra right down to earth. Geared up with a dry humorousness that’s in all probability one of the best survival device a former baby star might want for, she’s fast with fun or a self-effacing joke — and adept at dealing with each doable oddball interplay with followers of the present.
On Saturday, Arngrim will pour her distinctive perspective, experiences and up-close imaginative and prescient of the deranged aspect of fame into her touring one-woman present, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (additionally the title of her autobiography), in a one-night-only efficiency at Out Entrance Theatre. It’s a present that has developed over 20 years to include video clips, costume adjustments and an “Ask Me Something” Q&A section with the viewers on the finish. She’ll draw on her stand-up comedy chops to handle “the various elephants within the room.”
Arngrim grew up in Los Angeles as a part of a show-biz household. In actual fact, her mom was greatest generally known as the voice of each Casper the Pleasant Ghost and Gumby. In 1974, when Arngrim was simply 12, she landed the position that will change her life, as Walnut Grove’s nemesis to Melissa Gilbert’s plucky protagonist Laura Ingalls. Michael Landon’s present was primarily based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling autobiographical books about life on the frontier.
After the collection ended, Arngrim labored as an activist within the HIV/AIDS motion of the Nineteen Eighties. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she additionally has been a robust advocate for laws to guard youngsters, together with youngsters working in leisure.
Forward of her Atlanta stage debut, ArtsATL spoke with Arngrim (solutions have been edited for size and readability).
ArtsATL: I’ve received to say, I’m somewhat star-struck as a result of I watched your present. . .
Alison Arngrim: Oh! Are you a Bonnethead? I bear in mind Melissa Gilbert and I have been attempting to determine what to name our followers, and she or he mentioned, “Is it ‘Home-ies?’” I mentioned, “I believe it’s ‘Bonnetheads.’” We do have the hardcore followers. Our Trekkies (Star Trek followers) are Bonnetheads.
ArtsATL: You’ve spoken about making appearances at a few of these “Bonnethead” gatherings. What’s that like?
Arngrim: It’s fascinating. You might have individuals who love the present after which you could have people who find themselves actually into the books and don’t just like the present. After which you could have the hardcore historical past buffs who know Laura Ingalls Wilder modified timelines and condensed characters. They are going to all battle amongst themselves. It’s wonderful since you get individuals who are available full Laura regalia with bonnets and the outfits and every little thing. You might have the people who find themselves completely satisfied it’s actual.
ArtsATL: Maybe that’s a testomony to how vividly and realistically the characters have been portrayed.
Arngrim: We have been very convincing. When individuals inform me, “I hated you on the present. I needed to succeed in by way of the TV and punch you,” I at all times say, “Thanks! You’re telling me how good I used to be at my job.” The gang from the present, all of us within the solid, we get that the present hit such an emotional chord with individuals, particularly in the event that they grew up studying the books and watched the present as youngsters. We’re simply amazed that folks have been nonetheless watching us virtually 50 freaking years later everywhere in the world.
ArtsATL: How did you come to embrace Nellie Oleson as somebody who could be with you for the lengthy haul?
Arngrim: Proper, she is type of like my evil, invisible twin or alternate character that doesn’t go away. After we began the present, none of us had a clue. Effectively, Michael (Landon) had a clue. He advised individuals, “After we’re all useless and gone, they’ll nonetheless be watching these episodes.” And everybody would say, “Oh, yeah, he’s actually misplaced it now.”
The concept that it could final or that tens of millions of individuals would watch it again and again was a very alien concept. A couple of individuals on the present didn’t even signal contracts as a result of they initially thought it wasn’t going wherever. My father mentioned, “Who’s gonna watch this?”
Across the second or third 12 months, although, I began to comprehend one thing was occurring. I knew I hit a nerve as a result of I had individuals reacting very strongly and freaking out. Within the ’90s I went, “That is by no means going away.” I might have cosmetic surgery, change my identify, attempt to discover one other nation to maneuver to, however, no, I’m going to must discover a solution to dwell with the truth that that is in all probability a everlasting situation. I have to embrace it. In any other case, I’m going to spend each single minute of each single day telling individuals, “Cease speaking about Nellie Oleson,” and that’s simply not going to work.
ArtsATL: In your guide, you speak about individuals suggesting cosmetic surgery as a solution to break away from the character . . .
Arngrim: Precisely. That was the fashion. I used to be 18 or 19. Now individuals look askance and go, “No, probably not a good suggestion.” However then it was thought-about utterly regular to inform somebody who’s barely out of their teenagers to go do that for themselves.
I imply, my agent would submit me for elements, they usually’d all come again and go, “No, she’s not proper. This takes place in current day.” And he mentioned, “Effectively, she’s not Pioneer Barbie.” It was like, nicely, perhaps if I've some large transformation, that can assist. However then what occurs 20 years down the street? Is that one thing I actually need to do for the remainder of my life? And I didn’t.
ArtsATL: You wrote about the way it was a catharsis to play somebody imply, given that you're a survivor of abuse. Have you ever heard from followers who might have discovered Nellie to be somebody by way of whom they might expertise an identical type of catharsis?
Arngrim: And vicariously vent their anger, yeah, completely. To begin with, the present handled every little thing from baby abuse to alcoholism to individuals overdosing on morphine. Individuals received rather a lot out of it. Many individuals who had horrible, horrible childhoods, very abusive, liked Little Home. Quite a lot of individuals I’ve met mentioned, “I might watch and faux that my mother and father have been Charles and Caroline, that I lived elsewhere and my household wasn’t my household. That this was my household, and it was all going to be OK.”
Some individuals did establish along with her. They went, “Effectively, after all she’s depressing. Take a look at her mom. What should be occurring at that home? Poor woman, she’s appearing out. Of course she’s jealous of Laura with the right household. Of course she was indignant and doing all these silly issues.”
ArtsATL: So, you’re bringing Confessions of a Prairie Bitch to Out Entrance Theatre. How have Nellie and your present resonated throughout the homosexual neighborhood?
Arngrim: Early on, lots of people within the homosexual neighborhood noticed Nellie and Mrs. Oleson instantly as camp. They went, OK, that is excessive camp, that is drag. And primarily, I was in drag with the entire wig and the entire outfit. I've met individuals who mentioned that Nellie was their first diva.
Loads of homosexual individuals rising up mentioned, “I might watch the present and say, ‘If solely my mother and father have been Charles and Caroline, I might have come out to them.’”
ArtsATL: How has Confessions developed?
Arngrim: I began in 2002, so through the years, completely, issues have come out and gone in. My favourite factor is the Q&A. I've playing cards printed to say, “Ask Alison Something.” And we distribute these beforehand, and other people have a tendency to write down no matter, which can be insane or embarrassing or hilarious or soiled. They can't say it, however oh my god, they’ll write something on a card.
ArtsATL: Who're your comedy influences?
Arngrim: I grew up watching George Carlin and Carol Burnett. After I was little, I bear in mind being fascinated that a part of (Burnett’s) present was merely popping out and speaking to the viewers and answering questions. I bear in mind considering, “Is that this a factor you are able to do? As a job?” And I've to offer props to Bette Midler.
ArtsATL: All of the Little Home characters have been hardy, displaying survival expertise on the prairie. So, who of them could be almost definitely to outlive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Arngrim: I believe the Olesons could be horrible. Miss Beadle would ship the youngsters dwelling early and they'd all get eaten by zombies. I believe Pa and Ma would have it down. You bear in mind when Ma would sit in her rocking chair with the rifle on her lap when she was alone and Pa was away? And Pa, after all, has the ax. Albert was at all times very conniving, at all times had a plan, and will suppose on his ft. So, I’d put my cash on them.
ArtsATL: When you have been going to solid a reboot of Little Home, who would play Nellie and every other central solid members?
Arngrim: Effectively, I've dibs to return again and play Mrs. Oleson, as a result of I’m the fitting age now. Randy Havens, the instructor on Stranger Issues, ought to play Mr. Oleson. Jason Momoa as Charles Ingalls. He’s undoubtedly received the chest for it. Who could be Nellie now? Is Elle Fanning too previous? The British woman who’s Eleven in Stranger Issues (Millie Bobby Brown), she’s received the chops. And she or he’s in a wig already. She might do it. We’d get Benedict Cumberbatch as Doc Baker. And Jessica Chastain as Ma, who I can see brushing her hair by the hearth.
ArtsATL: If Nellie was the lead singer of a punk rock band, what would the band’s identify be?
Arngrim: (Laughs.) That is wonderful — um, what would we be? All our furnishings is purchased and never made, so Boughten Furnishings. First album title — I Hate My Mom. With the tune “You Scent Like a Soiled Horse.” I imply, I’m going to have to do that!
Alexis Hauk has written and edited for quite a few newspapers, alt-weeklies, commerce publications and nationwide magazines together with Time, the Atlantic, Psychological Floss, Uproxx and Washingtonian journal. Having grown up in Decatur, Alexis returned to Atlanta in 2018 after a decade dwelling in Boston, Washington, D.C., New York Metropolis and Los Angeles. By day, she works in well being communications. By evening, she enjoys overlaying the humanities and being Batman.