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Melissa Gilbert Was Horrified to Play Wife of Decade Older Dean Butler on 'Little House' but They Are Great Friends Now

Oyin Balogun
Sep 22, 2021
11:30 A.M.
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When Melissa Gilbert came face to face with the man she was to marry on TV, she was horrified by what she saw. She's great friends with him now — get acquainted with him!


It has always been said that the best friendships don't always start off on the right foot. That was certainly the case with entertainers Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler.

When they were younger, still honing their skills to become proficient actors, the two had the privilege of acting alongside one another in one of the most intimate dynamics on TV — husband and wife.

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler on "Little House on the Prairie" | Photo: Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler on "Little House on the Prairie" | Photo: Getty Images


Gilbert was already a member of the "Little House on the Prairie" cast as the young, spirited Laura Ingalls when Butler was brought on as Almanzo Wilder, the man Laura would eventually settle down with.


Gilbert, who is at least a decade younger than Dean Butler, wrote about the impressions she had about him right from when she discovered he would be her onscreen husband in her book, "Prairie Tale: A Memoir."

She had been fifteen at the time and had been expecting that the man portraying her onscreen husband to be closer to her in age. When she met Butler in person, she was initially horrified.

Melissa Gilbert at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California in February 2019. | Image: Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California in February 2019. | Image: Getty Images

Here was a full-grown man in his twenties, and there Gilbert was, a girl yet to start shaving her legs, acting as his future wife.


"All I knew was that I wanted to run away and hide," she said about the memorable experience. Gilbert was not ready for that encounter, not to mention the fact that she had to portray his wife on the series.

Gilbert admitted that he scared her in those first moments, and in return, she did her very best to make him as uncomfortable as she could. Still, the best times were those when he messed up on his own.


She cited an example of his first day on the job; apparently, he was supposed to drive a team of horses but had failed because he had no idea what to do with a horse outside of their rehearsals.

That day, he had been distracted by the wind that was trying to lift his big hat, and he steered the team of horses right into a tree. Meanwhile, Gilbert, who boasted of her horseback riding skills, had a field day laughing at his expense.

Thankfully, despite the initial misgiving Gilbert had about him, they worked well together and went on to become good friends.



Butler played Almanzo Wilder between 1979 and 1983 on the iconic pioneer drama "Little House on the Prairie." Her mother would slap her because, after that, all reprimands had to be done verbally.

He was active in the movie industry even after he moved on from the show. Between the '80s and '90s, he appeared in films like "Desert Hearts" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

He guest-starred on several TV shows as well, some of which included "Who's the Boss?" "The Love Boat," "Murder, She Wrote," and "JAG."


On Broadway, he played Rapunzel's Prince in the original company of "Into the Woods." He also did a lot of work behind the cameras as the founder of a production company named Legacy Documentaries.

There he allegedly produced DVD bonus content for the "Little House on the Prairie" series and two original documentaries, "Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura" and "Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura. Ingalls Wilder."

He is currently married to actress Katherine Cannon, whom he met at an audition for Michael Landon's series "Father Murphy."



Gilbert practically grew up right on the screen. In her autobiography, which she penned in 2009, she revealed that about a week after she met her onscreen husband, she had her period — the very first.

Luckily for her, she was home when it happened, but when she told her mom, she got slapped — hard and once, on the face.

Apparently, it was a Jewish tradition; when a woman had her first period, her mother would slap her because all reprimands had to be done verbally after that. That was how young she was when fame found her.


Gilbert went on to do great things in the movie industry. She was elected president of the Screen Actor's Guild in 2001 and has also served two terms as SAG's head honcho.

She also found love a couple of times on her journey. She dated Rob Lowe on and off for about six years, but her first husband was Bo Brinkman. They married in 1988 and welcomed their only son together, Dakota, in 1989.

The pair went their separate ways in 1994. Bruce Boxleitner was the man she married when she moved on. After tying the knot in 1995, they welcomed Gilbert's second child, son Michael, later that year.


They were married for 16 years but split in 2011. Thanks to her marriage to Bruce, Gilbert also gained two stepchildren, Sam Boxleitner and Lee Boxleitner.

They cam from Bruce's marriage to Kathryn Holcomb, his first wife. Despite the fact that he and the talented Gilbert ultimately split, they still maintain an amicable relationship, one that lets her remain very much involved in her stepkids' lives.


Two years later, Gilbert moved on with Timothy Busfield. The two have no kids together, but she is a doting stepmother to his three kids, Samuel, Daisy, and Wilson Busfield, whom he welcomed during previous relationships.

Gilbert is a loving wife and dedicated mother to her kids and stepkids. Her fans who follow her on social media always get glimpses into the life the famous actress lives at home.

Her Instagram page is inundated with pictures of her enjoying a variety of activities with her children. She does not have a grandchild yet, but she does have a step-grandchild whom she enjoys flaunting on her feeds.

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