“Little House” Star Dean Butler Felt “Anxiety” Kissing 15-Year-Old Melissa Gilbert On-Screen

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler

(Left) Hallmark Channel / YouTube / (Right) Little House on the Prairie / YouTube

Little House On The Prairie Actor Dean Butler Reflects On Age Gap Between Himself & Co-Star Melissa Gilbert

As the Little House on the Prairie TV series celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, actor Dean Gilbert is reflecting on the famous kiss he shared with co-star Melissa Gilbert, during one scene. The scene was filmed when Dean was 23 and Melissa was 15.

Dean played Laura Ingalls‘ love interest and eventual husband, Almanzo Wilder, in the Little House series. He first met Melissa (who played Laura) when they filmed the Season 6 episode “Back to School (Part 1).”

When I met Melissa in ‘Back to School,’ there was no sign of a woman there,” Dean told PEOPLE in a recent interview. “She really was a little girl: bright, incredibly capable, spunky, vibrant, very extroverted.” He added, Now, I don’t know how much more of a woman there was there at the end, but she was being asked to go there at the end of that season. And I think she did it amazingly well when you look at how little life experience she had.”

Some "Little House" cast members, including Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler, who shared an on-screen kiss.
Silver Screen Collection / Contributor / Getty Images

Dean Butler Reveals “Anxiety” Around Little House Kissing Scene

The actors shared their first on-screen kiss later in Season 6, during the episode titled “Sweet Sixteen.”

Dean recalls feeling some “anxiety” about kissing then-15-year-old Melissa. He was 23 years old at the time.

I think that there was anxiety on both sides of that kiss and how is this going to go?” he remembered. “But we stepped up to it. I’ve often said to Melissa, ‘I wish we could have been a little closer in age when we were doing this.'”

Dean added, “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could have [had] … a little more common ground, so we would’ve been able to play the loving side of this in perhaps a little bit more interesting way.”


In real life, Laura Ingalls was 10 years younger than Almanzo Wilder. They married in 1885 when Laura was 18, and welcomed their daughter, Rose, when Laura was 19.

Melissa Gilbert Previously Shared Her Thoughts

Melissa Gilbert previously shared her feelings about the famous scene with Dean Butler. In her 2010 memoir, Prairie Tale, she said she didn’t want to kiss Dean.

“I quipped that I would’ve preferred to kiss Scott Baio or Shaun Cassidy,” she said. “I knew those teen-idol guys were unattainable and therefore safe to mention, though the truth was, I didn’t want to kiss anyone.”

She added, “I didn’t want to kiss a man. I didn’t want to kiss anyone with stubble!”

Then, in her 2014 My Prairie Cookbook, she wrote:

This episode was shot several months before I turned 16 myself. This is the episode where the romance between Laura and Almanzo really begins. In fact, they have their first kiss. I remember shooting that kiss and it was really a big deal. It was kind of scary, but it ended up being very sweet and tender.”

Melissa acknowledged the age gap and said Dean was under a lot of “pressure” because of that. “Bless Dean’s heart,” she said.

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler also spoke about their awkward on-screen kiss during a past interview with Hallmark’s Home & Family, which you can watch below.