Little House on the Prairie star Karen Grassle recently released her memoir and shared her experiences on the historical drama playing Caroline Ingalls. Co-starring with show creator Michael Landon, who played her husband Charles, Grassle recalled an episode when a young actor had a guest role on the show in Landon’s absence and sparks immediately flew.
‘Little House’ Season 4 episode had Charles written out of the storyline
Grassle was in a steady relationship at the start of season four on Little House and had achieved solid grounding in her professional life. She described an episode where Caroline was at the forefront since Charles was not a part of the plot.
“I prepared to shoot an episode called ‘The Handyman’,” Grassle wrote in her book “Bright Lights, Prairie Dust“. “In this script, Pa suddenly has to go away for a job, just after demolishing our back wall to add on a real kitchen. As luck would have it, a wandering handyman shows up in town just in time to take on the job. … The undercurrent was romance.”
Actor Gil Gerard played Chris Nelson, the carpenter who stays with the Ingalls family while Charles was away. Grassle immediately felt an attraction to the guest star.
“He had that charisma many women find irresistible,” she remarked of Gerard. “When he showed up on the set, even the little girls sat up and took notice. He was sweet and hard-working and endeared himself to all of us women – young and old.”
Karen Grassle and Gil Gerard’s attraction developed behind the scenes
While the Little House storyline alluded to chemistry between Caroline and Chris, the two actors were drawn to each other even after the cameras stopped rolling. Grassle didn’t want to be unfaithful to her boyfriend Tom, but couldn’t resist Gerard’s charms.
“While filming ‘The Handyman’, I was still trying to separate my body from my soul and the erotic undercurrent of the plot was all too easy for me to play,” the Little House alum explained. “While Caroline’s boundaries were firm, my own were not, and Gil was distractingly attractive.”
Grassle revealed in her book that she had been struggling with alcoholism at the time, which only complicated her situation.
“Having a fling with Gil… lying to Tom, and covering up my duplicity with white wine wasn’t working,” she wrote. A head of steam was building up inside my core.”
Gil Gerard had surprising news for ‘Little House’ star
Grassle had just come through tense salary negotiations and seemed to be experiencing a reprieve both professionally and personally when Gerard came into her life. She tried to convince herself that she had everything under control despite her dependency on alcohol and relationship issues.
“My attraction to Gil gave me an adrenaline rush, the work had gone well, and tension over my contract was in the past,” the Little House star recalled. “All was right with my world. Wasn’t it?”
After filming “The Handyman”, Grassle’s life began hitting major bumps, including one that caught her completely off guard. While working an a TV film, she got a troubling phone call from Gerard.
“The next blow was a call from Gil with bad news,” she wrote. “‘[He told her] Go on antibiotics, you’ve been exposed to gonorrhea.’ … I would have to tell Tom. I had no defense.”
Grassle and Gerard’s off-camera romance never materialized into anything consistent, and her relationship with her boyfriend eventually came to an end.
“Bright Lights, Prairie Dust” is now on sale.