Melissa Gilbert Talks 'Little House on the Prairie' Days and Her Life Now in a Cabin (Exclusive)
By Tionah Lee
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“The sweet, simple things in life, they are the best and most important.”
These wise words from Melissa Gilbert’s Little House on the Prairie character, Laura Ingalls Wilder, have stuck with the actress all these years later.
In Gilbert's new book, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade A Life Rediscovered, she talks about quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic at her home in the Catskill Mountains in New York, and living a life away from Hollywood.
“When you're going through something like that, we really realize what you need versus what you want,” the 58-year-old actress told ET’s Rachel Smith, reflecting on the pandemic.
"I think that we were really focused on the want, want, want, want, want collectively and I hope we remember what’s really important," she continued. "The things that were really taken away from us. Community was taken away from us, our families were taken away from us, some people lost loved ones and dear friends permanently, our jobs were taken away from us. Life changed completely and the things that really matter are the things we love the most and the things that bring us the most peace and comfort.”
Gilbert found comfort in her Catskills home, which she calls "cabbage," that she shares with her husband, Timothy Busfield. After leaving Hollywood behind and settling upstate, Gilbert admitted to ET that her life is somewhat reminiscent to how Laura Ingalls lived with her family in Little House on the Prairie.
“The cabbage is very restorative,” Gilbert said of the home she moved into with her husband in 2019. “My life is just a lot more gentle. I don't have that burning ambition that I used to have.”
Gilbert starred on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1983, and during her time on the show, Gilbert said she had the perfect blend of prairie life and rural California living, giving her a glimpse of the life she wanted.
“I loved being on the set,” she said. “I loved being around the horses and the chickens. I would go home to our lush rural life at the end of the day to my chores and my schoolwork and all of that and our nice house in the San Fernando Valley. But I loved being outside. I loved to be in nature, and I always wanted to have that in my life.”
Now that she finally has that piece of nature, the only piece of California she misses is her family. “I don't miss the pressure. I don't miss the race. I don't miss the competition. I don't miss the feeling bad because I'm not younger and thinner,” she said. "I do miss Los Angeles. I miss, not the city itself. I miss my mom and I miss my sister and my nephews, and I miss my kids who live there, and my granddaughter who lives there, and my girlfriends who live there. That's the hardest part is being away from those people. But the rest of it? I don't miss."
For some, leaving the world you were more familiar would be difficult, but for Gilbert, it’s simply her third act.
"I think I finally reached a point and a place in my life where I wanted and want and love having a peaceful, settled, calm existence,” she told ET. "A lot of the trauma and drama from my past is gone and I've moved on from it. I want to have that in so many different ways and I made a conscious decision to not have anything in my life that was not peaceful and calm, especially with the move to the cabbage. And that's how I've chosen to live this last third of my life.”
If there is one person who can put Gilbert’s current life in perspective for the outside world, it’s her husband of nearly 10 years, who she said perfectly articulated who she is in the forward of her book.
“I love the forward in this book so much because it's an incredible love letter from my partner in life,” she said of Busfield. “But it's also he's so honest and so revealing of who I am and who he sees me as and I think it really gives people an in."