At 78 Years Old, Karen Grassle From 'Little House On The Prairie' Looks Unrecognizable
Mar 20, 2020
American treasure Karen Grassle is a veteran stage, TV, and film actress most famous for playing Caroline Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. She turned 78 on February 25.
According to her biography on her website, Karen Trust Grassle was born in Berkeley, California in 1942. She focused on her formal education, and before pursuing a professional career as an actress, she attended the University of California in her hometown. In 1965, she traveled to the UK to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Recalling her time in London, Karen writes, “That was one of the most exciting learning experiences of my life: the school was superb and we could go to the theatre in London and see the finest actors and productions in the English language.”
Karen seemed to disappear from the screens after playing one of the most iconic mothers in American television, when in fact, she returned to her first love: Broadway.
Before Little House on the Prairie, she made her debut in the Lanford Wilson play The Gingham Dog in 1968 and returned a year later to perform in Butterflies Are Free until 1972.
Working as a stage actress did not pay her well so she kept a lookout for other opportunities. That's when she entered Hollywood.
Karen first approached a film studio when she was called for a casting to star in a film and even though she didn't get the part, it put her in the right place to land the role that made her mainstream famous.D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra/Getty Images
In 1974, she was cast as the family matriarch Caroline Ingalls. The role earned her a lasting place in American TV history and popular culture. Set in the 1800s, Little House on the Prairie followed the life of a Minnesota family, and it went on to become one of the most popular shows of its age, going on for nine seasons before wrapping in 1983.
She left the show in 1982, and while the showrunners tried to keep it alive only with the Ingalls children, the series was canceled after another season. Karen was once again free to devote herself to Broadway, and given the success of the series, she didn’t need to worry about her finances like she used to.
In 1987, she returned to Broadway starring in Sweet Sue. Apart from working with the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky, she went on to find stage work in Boston, and of course, New York City. She took the next step and founded her own theater company. Since then she has performed in Cabaret, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Driving Miss Daisy, and Richard II.
In 1994, the actress returned to the big screen albeit in a small role with the film Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner.
She appeared in several other movies after, but it was the 2017 horror film “Lasso” which really took Karen back to the headlines. Speaking to Dread Central in 2018, Karen said she was worried about the exploitation of violence.
"Finally, my son tells me, "Oh just do it, Mom. You’ll have fun! You’ll run screaming in the night!" So, I said, "Okay, I’ll do it." It’s a total change for me.”
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