If you are a fan of the classic TV series Little House on the Prairie, you might be wondering about the relationship between two of its stars: Jonathan Gilbert and Melissa Gilbert. They played Willie Oleson and Laura Ingalls Wilder, respectively, on the show that ran from 1974 to 1983. But did you know that they are also siblings in real life? Well, sort of. Here’s the truth about their family ties and why they are not in contact anymore.
Adopted by Actors
Jonathan Gilbert was born on April 28, 1967, in Los Angeles, California. He is the adopted son of actors Barbara Cowen (née Barbara Crane) and Paul Gilbert, who also adopted Melissa Gilbert in 1964. Melissa and Jonathan have another sister, Sara Gilbert, who was born in 1975 to Barbara and her second husband, Harold Abeles. Sara is also an actress, best known for her roles in Roseanne and The Conners.
According to Wikipedia, Jonathan and Melissa grew up in a turbulent household. Their parents divorced in 1976, and their father died by suicide later that year. Melissa wrote in her 2010 autobiography, Prairie Tale, that she was not given any counseling or support during this difficult time. She also said that she had no say in her mother’s remarriage or the birth of her half-sister.
Co-Stars on Little House on the Prairie
Jonathan and Melissa both started their acting careers at a young age. They were cast as Willie Oleson and Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie, based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The show followed the lives of the Ingalls family and their neighbors in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the late 1800s.
Jonathan played Willie Oleson, the mischievous younger brother of Nellie Oleson, who was Laura’s rival and nemesis. Willie was often involved in troublemaking schemes with Nellie or other boys in town. He was also one of the few characters who appeared throughout the entire series, along with Melissa, Katherine MacGregor (who played Mrs. Oleson), Richard Bull (who played Mr. Oleson), Kevin Hagen (who played Dr. Baker), and Dabbs Greer (who played Reverend Alden).
Melissa played Laura Ingalls Wilder, the second daughter of Charles and Caroline Ingalls, and the narrator of the show. Laura was a spirited and adventurous girl who grew up to become a teacher, a wife, and a mother. She also faced many challenges and hardships along the way, such as blindness, illness, poverty, and loss. Melissa became one of the most popular child stars of her time and earned several awards and nominations for her performance.
Estranged from Each Other
Despite working together on Little House on the Prairie for nine years, Jonathan and Melissa did not have a close relationship off-screen. In fact, Melissa wrote in her memoir that Jonathan “cut himself off from the family” when he turned 18 and moved away from California. She said that she had no idea why he did that or where he went.
According to Cheat Sheet, Jonathan is now a stockbroker living in New York City. He has not acted since 1984, when he appeared in two TV movies based on Little House on the Prairie: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday and Little House: The Last Farewell. He has also not attended any reunions or events related to the show or his former co-stars.
Melissa, on the other hand, continued to act in various TV shows and movies after Little House on the Prairie ended. She also became a producer, director, author, activist, and politician. She ran for Congress in Michigan in 2018 but lost to Republican incumbent Mike Bishop. She has been married four times and has two sons: Dakota Brinkman (born in 1989) and Michael Boxleitner (born in 1995).
Jonathan Gilbert and Melissa Gilbert are not related by blood, but they are siblings by adoption. They both starred on Little House on the Prairie as Willie Oleson and Laura Ingalls Wilder, respectively. However, they have not been in touch for decades since Jonathan left California at 18 and became a stockbroker in New York City. Melissa has remained in the public eye as an actress, producer, director, author, activist, and politician.
Is Jonathan Gilbert related to Melissa Gilbert? The answer is yes and no. They are related by adoption but not by blood. They are also estranged from each other for reasons unknown to Melissa.