Bonanza star Michael Landon created the iconic family drama Little House on the Prairie in 1974. Serving as the show’s executive producer and star, Landon was known for having a charming sense of humor along with the ability to run a tight ship.
When one former co-star was offered a guest role on Landon’s new NBC series Highway to Heaven, she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to perform up to his standards.
Charlotte Stewart had tough times after ‘Little House’
During the first four seasons of Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte Stewart portrayed Walnut Grove’s school teacher, Eva Beadle. After her character was written out of the series in 1978, Stewart’s life went into a spiral.
“That was a really horrible time for me,” she told the Star Tribune in 2016. “In the early ’80s, my business manager had managed to put a lot of my money up his nose and I wasn’t getting jobs.”
Openly sharing her addiction to drugs and alcohol, Stewart revealed that she committed to sobriety and began searching for substantial acting roles.
“I was spending too much time playing,” the Little House alum remarked. “People were trying to help me, but I didn’t want to hear what they were saying. That’s common with addicts.”
‘Little House’ co-stars reunited on ‘Highway to Heaven’
Stewart was able to get her life and career back on track, and soon received an offer for a two-part guest spot on Landon’s show Highway to Heaven in 1985.
“Like on Little House, Mike played multiple roles on this show — executive producer, writer, director, and star,” Stewart explained in her book Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. “Nearly all of the crew from Little House had moved with Michael to Highway to Heaven. … so I knew what I was in for.”
Stewart recalled the frequent imbibing on the Little House set, where sobriety wasn’t considered a positive attribute.
“I liked Mike a lot but he could, on the right day, be a tough guy to work with,” she revealed. “I knew that on Little House, one of the adult cast members had quit drinking, gone into recovery, and never mentioned it. … There was quite a bit of drinking on the Little House set among Mike and the crew. … If Mike knew this cast member had quit drinking, it would be like a weakness exposed.”
‘Highway to Heaven’ was a ‘healthy challenge’ for Charlotte Stewart
Despite having an amiable relationship with Landon during their years on Little House, Stewart was apprehensive about working with him again.
“All of my scenes were with Mike, who was also directing, and I was very nervous,” she shared. “He was his usual easy-breezy self and tried to joke and make conversation in between takes … I needed to really stay focused on my role and my lines, and honestly, I was more than a little scared that I was going to blow it.”
Though she had her fears going into the role, Stewart nailed the part and enjoyed her reunion with Landon.
“Fortunately we made it through and all was well,” the Little House star commented. “I was certainly grateful to Mike for the work. … Ultimately filming that episode was a healthy challenge that allowed me to start taking risks and regaining my confidence.”
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