'Little House on the Prairie' cast sheds tears, talks legacy on TODAY

To mark the 40th anniversary of "Little House on the Prairie," the cast gathered together for a reunion on TODAY Wednesday. And just like any good family reunion, there were tears, laughs and some surprising stories.

As the for the tears, they started flowing before the gang — which included Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls), Karen Grassle (Caroline "Ma" Ingalls), Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary Ingalls), Lindsay Greenbush (Carrie Ingalls), Dean Butler (Almanzo James Wilder), Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), Matthew Labyorteaux (Albert Quinn Ingalls) and Michael Landon Jr. (son of the late star who played Charles "Pa" Ingalls) — even said a word.

"I got tears in my eyes," Grassle confessed after watching a clip that introduced the segment. "First of all, I'm sitting here with these three daughters, really for the first time since (Michael Landon's) funeral (in 1991). And then to see them come running (in the clip) ... just kills me. ... I'm not really that sentimental."

At least she didn't think she was. Gilbert, however, wasn't surprised to find herself crying.

"Yeah, well, I'm a crier anyway — and I'm also incredibly co-dependent," she added with a laugh. "So Ma goes, I go, I guess. It's a very emotional experience, especially because we were together for so long, and it was an intense experience. We were a family there."

Well, most of them were. In the "Little House" story, Arngrim certainly wasn't a member of the Ingalls clan. She was the infamous Nellie Oleson, otherwise known as Half-Pint's adversary.

TODAY's Hoda Kotb asked Arngrim if strangers instantly hated her back in the day, to which Arngrim replied, "Still."

"It's quite difficult," she said. "I was pelted with a cup of orange soda ... in the Santa Claus Lane Hollywood Christmas Parade."

But things have improved some for the on-screen baddie.

"People kind of love the villains (now)," Arngrim cheered.

And she loved playing one opposite Gilbert. In fact, their on-screen interactions are why she's so excited about the recent release of the first two seasons of "Little House" on Blu-ray.

"I want to see high-def when her fist goes in my face," she said on one fan-favorite fight between them.

Of course, fights weren't the main events on the show. The family-friendly fare usually focused more on what brought the characters together. That emphasis on family spilled over off-screen too, thanks to star and executive producer Landon.

"The great thing about the series was the hours that my father set," Landon Jr. explained. "It doesn't happen anymore, but he was always home for dinner."

As for Landon's on-screen legacy, Grassle said, "I wish Michael could see what it means still to people."

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