Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is a American actress, writer and producer, primarily in movies and television. The naturally red-headed Gilbert is best known as a child actor who co-starred as Charles Ingalls’s (played by Michael Landon) second daughter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, on the 1970s dramatic television series Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983). Not long after that she played Gerda in the Faerie Tale Theatre adaptation of The Snow Queen. She also provided the voicework for the roles of Clara in the Sanrio film, Nutcracker Fantasy and later Barbara Gordon in Batman: The Animated Series. More recently, she served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Family & Early Career
Gilbert was born in Los Angeles, California, to a Jewish family. She was adopted by actor Paul Gilbert (born Paul MacMahon) and his wife, Barbara Crane. She also has 2 siblings, Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene Conner on the popular television series Roseanne, and Jonathan Gilbert, with whom she co-starred in “Little House” (as Willie Oleson) and The Miracle Worker. She won the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House over 500 other young actresses in part because she bore a remarkable resemblance to both Karen Grassle and Michael Landon. When Melissa was eight, her parents divorced, and when she was 11, her adoptive father died. She was very close to co-star Michael Landon until his death on July 1, 1991. She attended school with Landon’s daughter Leslie, went to her prom with Michael Jr. and often spent weekends at the Landon home. She was also reunited with Landon in late 1983 to reprise her role in a Little House TV movie.
Career After Little House
Gilbert has continued to work regularly, mainly in television. She starred as Jean Donovan in the biopic Choices of the Heart (1983), and as Anna Sheridan in two episodes of Babylon 5 with husband Bruce Boxleitner in 1996. In 1998, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In 2006, Gilbert appeared as Shari Noble, a patient looking to reconstruct her nipples after committing zoophilia with her dog in a season 4 episode of Nip/Tuck.
Gilbert regularly keeps in contact with her friend Alison Arngrim, who played her nemesis and sometimes best friend “Nellie Oleson” on Little House on the Prairie.
She currently is playing Caroline “Ma” Ingalls in a musical adaptation of Little House on the Prairie. This world premiere production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was directed by Francesa Zambello and also stars Kara Lindsay as Laura. The show will run through October 19 and is rumored to go on tour and potentially Broadway.  A 30-city national tour was announced for 2009-10.
For her contribution to the television industry, Gilbert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6429 Hollywood Blvd.
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