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“Little House on the Prairie”’s Melissa Gilbert Says Show Still Reflects the 'Juicy Things' People 'Crave' (Exclusive)

Gilbert explains to PEOPLE why the iconic series still resonates with viewers — and draws new ones — 50 years after its debut

<p>Pascal Le Segretain/Getty</p> Melissa Gilbert in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Melissa Gilbert in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023.

Little House on the Prairie continues to entertain viewers 50 years after its premiere, and there’s a very good reason for that, according to its star Melissa Gilbert.

The actress, 59, shared her theory with PEOPLE at the Little House on the Prairie 50th Anniversary Cast Reunion and Festival last weekend, pointing to the show’s universal themes.

“It's a reflection of all the things that people crave in life: family, community, love, faith, and hope,” she says. “It's all the good juicy things that make human beings so wonderful and different from animals. I mean, that connection. And Little House is a reminder of that.”

Related: Little House on the Prairie’s Dean Butler Will Discuss 'Hurt Feelings' and 'Disappointments' in New Memoir (Exclusive)

<p>Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> Melissa Gilbert during season 8 of 'Little House on the Prairie.'

Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Melissa Gilbert during season 8 of 'Little House on the Prairie.'

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the show found new viewers, offering them a “reminder of where we used to be," says Gilbert. Fans quoted relevant episodes like “Plague” from Little House on the Prairie’s first season and “Quarantine” from season 3, which revolved around outbreaks in the town of Walnut Grove.

“At that time, I would look at numbers going up and reading things on social media and think, ‘Okay, well okay,’ and then it just started to blow up,” Gilbert recalls. “Then the Black Lives Matter movement happened, and then they're talking about episodes like ‘The Wisdom of Solomon.’ All of a sudden, people are realizing that there's a Little House on the Prairie [episode] for everything we're going through.”

“It wasn't just that cozy family show,” she continues. “We dealt with the issues of 1974, the recession, that's coming home from Vietnam, chauvinism, equal rights for women, equal rights for people of color, antisemitism. We dealt with all of that, but we didn't do it in an exploitive way.”

Related: Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim and Melissa Gilbert Were Close Despite Playing ‘Mortal Enemies’ (Exclusive)

<p>NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler during season 8 of 'Little House on the Prairie.'

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler during season 8 of 'Little House on the Prairie.'

Based on author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of books about growing up in the Midwest during the late 19th century, Little House on the Prairie aired for nine seasons from 1974 to 1983, becoming a part of the cultural zeitgeist and catapulting Gilbert, who was 9-years-old when the series debuted, to fame.

The feel-good show was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards during its run and won four, including outstanding cinematography for a series and outstanding music composition for a series in 1979.

Many castmembers, including Gilbert, Alison Arngrim and Dean Butler, attended the Little House on the Prairie 50th Anniversary Cast Reunion and Festival and reminisced about their time on the show.

“We were telling stories at the time, which sadly are still our stories,” Gilbert says. “We're still fighting for so many things in this country, and I think Little House is sort of a bastion of what can be.”

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All nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie can be streamed on Prime Video and Peacock.

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Read the original article on People.