Melissa Anderson Co-star

Katy Kurtzman interview

I’d like to start with the Little House on the Prairie episode, “The Music Box”. Can you tell me how the casting process went for the part of Anna?

Little House auditions were relatively easy compared to other theatrical auditions I had been on. I went in one afternoon to the old two story buildings that lined the west end of Paramount Studios. It was the first time I read for this casting director. There were only a few other girls there. I went in and read the scene where Nellie makes me say Peter Piper. The casting director went out to the waiting room and asked my mom if we had time to wait for Michael so that he could hear me read and my mom said that would be fine. The casting director made a phone call and about 8 minutes later Michael Landon walked in the door. My mom and I just about fell out of our chairs. I did not know that the CD was referring to THE Michael. I read for Michael Landon, the casting director said “thank you” and Mom and I went home all a twitter. As soon as I got home I called Tami Lynn, my manager, to tell her about my adventure reading for THE Michael Landon and she told me that I got the job. I was thrilled. Little house was my favorite show. I was on top of the world.

How many days did it take to shoot your scenes? Also, do you have any memories about the production of the

Katy Kurtzman in The Music Box

We shot for ten business days, first on location in Simi Valley at Big Sky Ranch and then we did the interiors on a big old sound stage at Paramount. My memories of working on the Music Box could fill a book. If I could pick my most profound memory it would be the first direction that I got from Michael. We were shooting the exterior part of the scene where Nellie comes to my house to invite me to be in the club. We took one take and Michael comes up to me and says “Slow down Katy, this isn’t a commercial”. On commercials the script supervisor is timing everything with a stopwatch. You’ve got 30 seconds to tell the story so you had better be quick about it. The Music Box was my first theatrical (non-commercial) job. This direction from Michael was more than ‘the obvious’ for me. What I heard was not “Slow down Katy, this isn’t a commercial”. What I heard was “Take your time and don’t sell anything”. If you know anything about acting, you know how profound that direction is, “Take your time and don’t sell anything.” It’s a direction I still take to this day.

Katy Kurtzman and Melissa Sue Anderson in The Music Box

I think you only had one short scene with Melissa Sue Anderson. Most of your scenes were with Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim. How was your working relationship with Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim? Do you have any stories that you would like to share? 

Melissa Gilbert and Alison Arngrim did everything they could to make me feel comfortable, welcome and at home. Alison nicknamed me “Porky Pig on the Prairie”. They were, and are still, such sweet people. Melissa Sue Anderson was kind and professional. When I worked with her that one time, I remember her looking right into me with eyes that are bluer than mine. She seemed so much older than I. I was 11 and placed in this world that they had all been living in for about 4 years already. Still, they were all supportive and I could tell that they cared that I did well. It was like being a guest in their house, their Little House.

Now, I’d like to ask you about “Very Good Friends”. Was it shot before or after “The Music Box”? I know they both aired within a month of each other in 1977. I was wondering if you knew Melissa Sue Anderson before “Very Good Friends” was shot.

Katy Kurtzman in Very Good Friends

The Music Box was shot before Very Good Friends. Melissa was just a bit younger than my real older sister, Beth, and had similar big sister energy. She is so easy to work with. She’s a really ‘giving’ actor, solid and professional, she made it all feel easy. There was no ego about her, no hammy ‘look at me, look at me’ thing going on. You could barely tell she was acting, she was just ‘being’ and you believe every moment. I was the ham on that set, sad to say. I had some big shoes to fill playing Melissa’s little sister.

Katy Kurtzman and Melissa Sue Anderson in Very Good Friends

How were you cast for “Very Good Friends”? 

Audition, call back, cast. Pretty simple. Don’t really remember much of it.

You looked very comfortable with the horse, Prince. Did you have to take riding lessons for the part? 

I took riding lessons to learn English. I knew how to ride Western already. My sister had a horse, Honey. And then there was Brandy and Brandy’s baby, Pepper. Brandy and Pepper were ponies. Honey was a Quarter horse. We had a big back yard, lots of animals.

Do you remember where "Very Good Friends" was shot? 

I don’t remember where the ranch work was shot. I think the house was off of Franklin Blvd. near Gardner in Hollywood.

I thought your acting was very impressive in the “I Remember” episode of Little House on the Prairie. You were very convincing as a young Caroline. How were you cast in this episode?

Katy Kurtzman in the Little House episode "I Remember"

I was working a lot at the time. The CD brought Mat and I in to take a look at us together and cast us. We wanted to read, but the CD said that she knew that we could act.

Katy Kurtzman and Mathew Labyorteaux in the Little House episode "I Remember"

Mathew Labyorteaux was impressive as the young Charles and both of you had great chemistry. How was your working relationship with him? Do have any memories to share about this episode?

We shot on location in Sonora, CA. It was cold, December. I had a mad, steaming, adolescent crush on Mat. I was wild about him. He for me, not so much. I tried my best to let him know how I felt, but I think I just freaked him out. He was unresponsive, too disinterested. He was a good friend though and Pat, Mat and I would hang out together for a while after the shoot. They lived only a few lights away from me. Pat was sweet and I think he liked me, but I was all for Mat and I could not figure out why he didn’t like me the same way I liked him.
In Sonora, Missy G. came up right around Christmas time, after we had been shooting for a while. We were all staying in the same cheapish motel. There was a K-mart like place across the street and I went with Missy to buy a Christmas tree and decorations. She was so excited about that little tree that she couldn’t wait to get it back to her room before decorating it. We decorated that little tree right there in the parking lot and then walked it back to her room. She was always so fun, a really happy, energetic and optimistic young lady.

1978 seemed like a very busy year for you. Was it hard to keep up as a child actor with the many different acting projects that you did in 1978? 

78 was a strange year. The work kept me sane I think, at least for a while. Things started getting weird at home. My stepfather died of intestinal cancer. My mother stopped going to the set with me and sent me with a set sitter. My sister left home at 16 to go live with our father in Florida. Mom started going through a really tough time that lasted about 8 years. I was too busy to notice that my home was coming apart at the seams. Home got really really weird really really fast. I was unable to do anything about it or stop it from getting worse, which it did. Work was my escape. Lots of kids have families that have big problems. I feel almost silly mentioning my family drama when Alison Arngrim literally grew up in Hell. I was happy for the work in 78 and 79.

How were your experiences working on the series, Dynasty? 

Katy Kurtzman in Dynasty

Dynasty was tough. Lindsey was a very different character and all of my rage and frustration with my personal (home) life just came out through Lindsay like a ball of self-righteous indignation, not pretty. I look back at my work on Dynasty with disappointment for opportunity lost. Had I been able to pull myself above the fray and create Lindsay to be more likeable and sympathetic, my life may have been very different. I did what I did because of who I was at the time. I truly thought I was doing good work, confusing talent with self-centered emotionalism I suppose. Not to mention I was about 15 pounds overweight. It was not a warm show to begin with and I just made it worse. Anyway, it was what it was and is what it is. So there you have it.

Did you enjoy working as a child actor? 

I loved it. I lived for it.

According to Internet Movie Database, there are no acting credits from 1986- 1998. Did you take a break from acting?

I planned on taking a break for about 2 years right after Dynasty. I just wanted to be a ‘normal’ high school student for a while and I was sick and tired of my insane home life and being the only one employed while everyone else was going off the deep end on a daily basis. I shot myself in the foot by doing that however. You’re only as good as your last job and my last job was Lindsey. When I decided I wanted to act again at 21 years old, I was cute as a bug and studying my craft. Being an ex-child actor, I pretty much had to start over. I landed a few jobs and then fell in love with a man who moved me away from LA to a mansion in the sky (three bedroom house in Big Bear). Another big mistake. Shortly after that was over, I started to teach acting, do a movie from time to time to time, got married, work in production. Anyway, life happens. 

Do you have any current or future projects that you are working on? 

I’m currently working on getting future acting projects. LOL!!

Thank you Katy for answering my questions.

Video Clip Filmography

Very Good Friends (Beat the Turtle Drum) (1977)

Fantasy Island (1978), part 1

Fantasy Island (1978), part 2

The Awakening Land (1978)

When Every Day Was the Fourth of July (1978)

Child of Glass (1978)

The New Adventures of Heidi (1978)

Hunters of the Reef (1978)

Long Journey Back (1978)

How the West Was Won - The Scavengers (1979)

The Love Boat - Super Mom (1979)

Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker (1979)

Hawaii Five-O (1979)

Donovan's Kid (1979)

Trapper John, M.D. (1979)

Dynasty (1981)

Allison Sidney Harrison (1983)

CBS Schoolbreak Special (1985)
Student Court (Audio distorted)

God Sex & Apple Pie (1998)

The Pool Boy (2001)

Hide (2010)

Grey's Anatomy (2013)

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