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Dean Butler was an aspiring actor when he was cast as Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie. Working with show creator and star Michael Landon, Butler portrayed the love interest of main character Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) and immediately given plenty of screen time. Butler expressed his gratitude for a specific person who was key in getting him the coveted part.
Dean Butler praised ‘Little House’ casting director
As an aspiring actor in the late 1970s, Butler quickly learned how significant the job of a casting director can be when recruiting for a show.
“I think 90 percent of success, in theatrical enterprises, be it film, television or stage, is in the casting,” Butler told Daily Planet in 2021. “If you can put the right people in the parts, you’ve done a huge part of your job. If you’re a producer or casting director, your success will largely depend on who you’ve put in those spots.”
Butler praised the casting director of Little House for giving him a chance when he tried out for such a central role on the show, and credited her for believing in his talent despite his lack fo experience.
“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Susan Sukman McCray, who was the casting director,” the Little House alum remarked. “She brought me in and she really guided the whole process. By the time I met Michael [Landon], she had gone through hundreds of actors and Michael met with four actors for the part of Almanzo. So she really had a huge impact on the actors who made it onto the show.”
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Michael Landon oversaw all of ‘Little House’
Landon played Charles Ingalls on the historical drama from day one of Little House. Often serving as writer and director in addition to his onscreen role, Landon carried the majority of the NBC hit’s responsibilities.
“Michael was just as big a star as there was in television at that time and as powerful of one as there was in terms of being able to influence what was going on around him,” Butler explained. “The reality of it was, he had a huge job to do.”
Butler admitted he would have preferred more direction on set since he was just starting out in the acting field but understood that Landon was already stretched in his hectic schedule.
“He didn’t have time for a lot of hand holding,” the former Little House star said of Landon. “He would hold your hand if you needed it, but he really wanted the actors to come in and deliver the goods. He had a schedule to shoot and airdates to make. As a new, young actor, I probably would have liked a little more care given, but on the other hand, you have to realize, when I needed direction, he gave it to me.”
Almanzo Wilder is still beloved by ‘Little House’ fans
After Little House ended in 1983, Butler went on to other acting gigs and began to direct and produce. Heading the 2008 documentary Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, Butler then decided to produce and direct Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder in 2015. He commented on the fondness fans extend to him for playing the husband of such a beloved character.
“Through the years, I’ve been the beneficiary of a lot of affection coming from young women who loved the show,” Butler said. “I’ve always looked at that as Laura was every girl’s best friend. Laura was a wonderful role model and she was someone young girls emulated so there was naturally a lot of interest in the man who would capture Laura’s heart. So I’ve been the beneficiary of that for 40 years. It’s been a pretty remarkable thing and something I’m extremely grateful for.”
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