Mark Neely Interview (2014) about working with Melissa on
Whisper Country 

Mark Neely in Little House on the Prairie

How were you cast for the role of Joshua Bond?

I loved that audition. I met with Susie Sukman (this was before she married Kent McCray and became Susan McCray), the Little House Casting Director, and Michael Landon. I don’t think she was crazy about me at first but was very nice. During the audition, Mr. Landon was sitting at his desk, I was in a chair across from him and Susie was reading Melissa’s (Mary’s) part. We were reading the first scene where I come into the school and answer Mary’s question, “I have two apples, I take away one. How many are left?” When I answered Susie, I replied with sass, “Three.” Then I turned to Michael confidentially and said, “I et one.” He slapped his hand on the desk and laughed (he had an amazing laugh – so open and generous). I kind of knew I might get the part at that point. I think Susie even started liking me more from then on. Well, the rest of the reading went well and I was lucky enough to get the part. I think it might have been because I was so open with Mr. Landon. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him and was really honored to get the chance to meet him. Even if I hadn’t gotten the part I would have considered the meeting a highlight in my life. Maybe I communicated that – but then, who wouldn’t have? He made me feel very comfortable in the audition. I was 22 years old and a little nervous because the part was really for a 16 year old. As soon as I walked in, though, I got the feeling he was on my side and wanted me to do well. Perhaps he was like that with everyone but he made me feel special all the same.

Did you meet any of the cast members before you got the part?

No, other than Mr. Landon - as mentioned above.

When did you meet Melissa Sue Anderson for the first time?

I met Melissa on the set. She was very professional. I was impressed by her polish from the start but also understood that, given her experience on the show, it made sense for her to be as prepared and poised as she was. All the same, she was obviously very comfortable and unpretentious.

Where did you shoot your scenes?

This was one of the most wonderful things about the shoot. We worked at Paramount Studios for much of the time but also got to travel up to Sonora, CA for exteriors and some of the school house interiors. It was a beautiful place. The town was kind of magical, complete with vintage taxis and a really cool, old-timey hotel. I loved going on location. It was the first time for me and it was a thrill to be picked up at my very unglamorous apartment in Echo Park in a limousine and driven to LAX for a short flight up to Sacramento and then driven up to Sonora. At that time in my life, I was driving a cab in Los Angeles to make ends meet and for me to be picked up in a limo was a very tasty treat indeed.

How was your working relationship with Melissa?

She was extremely easy and enjoyable to work with. She was a pro. Kind of intense but giving and supportive. An interesting thing to judge for a guest star when working with one of the regulars or, especially, with one of the stars of a show is how they relate to you when it’s your turn for a close up. Some stars just go through the lines; some don’t even show up, they let someone else read their lines when it’s your turn to have the camera focus its attention on you. Melissa was not only present. She gave the same level of performance for me as she did for her own close ups. That really helped me to feel comfortable and, more importantly, confident, because it made me feel like she approved of what I was doing. I really appreciated it and know that my performance was better for her support. On the set, we didn’t talk to each other very much but I spent a good bit of time talking to her mother. She was very serious but open and I really liked that she was so protective of her daughter. I don’t know what their relationship was really like but I sensed that her mother was not at all the typical “stage mother.” She really seemed to be there to make sure her daughter was all right. She told me about how she and Melissa’s father were careful to invest Melissa’s money for Melissa and were not there to take advantage of her. We talked about child actors (at this point, Melissa was not yet 18 – she did not seem like a child to me but was, technically, a minor) and the way that so many of them struggled with all the pressures of stardom. She assured me that Melissa did all her homework, took her job very seriously and was not at all “Hollywood”. Interestingly, a few years later, I worked on “Differn’t Strokes”. I was there before life got so difficult for the kids on that show. Later, when I heard about their troubles, I thought back with respect for the things Melissa’s mother said and the selfless intentions she communicated.

I noticed that you were barefoot through all your scenes. How was it running barefoot?

It was kind of cold in Sonora as I remember (late November). I was a little worried about going barefoot at first but as soon as the camera rolled I was into the part and didn’t even think about it. Honestly, I think the best acting I did in the show was when I was running barefoot, jumping over a log while running toward the schoolhouse.

Do you have any stories to tell us about your experience working on Little House on the Prairie?

Lots. It was, all in all, my favorite acting job. I especially liked working for Mr. Landon. I was, and still am, a huge fan of Bonanza. Maybe even more significantly, I was a big fan of old movies. When I was on the set of Little House on the Prairie, I felt like I was on the set of a John Ford movie. Interestingly, one of the Production Assistants and I got into a conversation (I always loved talking to as many of the crew as I could). He had actually worked with Ford on several of his films, including “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. I loved that. It made me feel like I was part of the whole Classic Hollywood history. I felt that way on a few other shows but never more so than on Little House. Another fun thing during those couple weeks happened when we were shooting the scene where Mary slaps me because I “tried to steal a kiss”. When Anita Dangler, playing Ms. Peel, scolds me to “Get ta Home!!” I turn and run off. Well, the pants I was wearing were much too tight for me and when I took off running, they split from front to back – completely. There was this huge tearing sound as my pants split and the entire crew, including Mr. Landon, burst out laughing. In the scene, as shown in the final cut, you only see a bare split and a bit of white of my underwear before they cut away. They recorded over the laughter. I was told, though, that Michael Landon held onto the full clip as an out take, complete with the ripping sound and raucous laughter, and played it along with some of his other favorite out takes at Christmastime. I hope that was true. I also had a great experience playing ping pong with Mr. Landon. We had a furious match and I’ve enjoyed bragging over the years that I played ping pong with him. I think the people to whom I’ve told that story were more impressed by my playing ping pong with Michael Landon than they were by my having been on the show.

Mark Neely in Little House on the Prairie

IMDb has Little House on the Prairie as your first acting role. Is it your first acting role?

It was my second role. My first was a Movie of the Week called, “The Many Loves of Arthur” starring Richard Masur who went on to be a President of SAG. It was directed by Bill Bixby who I respected tremendously. Unfortunately, it only played once on TV and then joined the ranks of forgotten shows never to be seen or heard from again. A real fun experience, though. It took place in a zoo. I was the zookeeper’s assistant. I had more scenes with animals than with people. I got to work with an orangutan and a chimpanzee. I loved it.

What made you decide to go into acting?

I was crazy about movies as a kid. I think I could name every Humphrey Bogart movie, in order, (there were 72) by the time I was 15. I loved the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton and all the old, screwball comedies. I went to High School in Charleston, SC. While there, I did a couple of plays but didn’t have much interest in acting. I was a pretty serious student. I went to college in Los Angeles to study languages and history but ended up drifting into acting. I have always had these two sides – goofy/creative and serious/analytical. I guess I could say that the goofy/creative side decided to take charge when I was 22, and so I became an actor. I never really felt like I belonged, though. However, I was competitive and wanted to succeed. If I had had more experiences like I had on Little House, I would have loved it more and, in the end, maybe have had more success. As it was, I found the pursuit of an acting career to be soul challenging. I knew from the beginning that the only chance of success was by giving it full commitment and I was aware that I didn’t have that. I struggled trying to get it the whole time. After I got married, I quit and became a corporate trainer and consultant. I am still doing that. I have my own business, Mark Neely Seminars, teaching sales and negotiation skills to different companies. I speak in front of groups so, in a way, it’s like acting but really, I think of myself more as a teacher than as an actor. I guess, if I really think about it, I have always thought of myself that way. My daughter, Mary, is now out of college and pursuing a career as an actress
It’s great to hear her stories and to relate to what she is doing. I think she is much more talented than I was and I love supporting her in her efforts.

1994 is your last credited role on Internet Movie Database. Have you done any more acting since then or have you pursued other endeavors?

I can honestly say that, with that 1994 credit, my acting career ended in the toilet. My last role was in a pretty horrible movie, “Night of the Demons – 2” I open the movie by knocking on the door of a scary looking house. I am with a nice, young lady. She and I are spreading the good word of religion. Unfortunately, we have chosen to spread the word to a house of demons and I quickly get my head cut off. Later, I come back demonized myself as a detached head in the bowl of a toilet. A pretty young girl, who is in the house with teenage friends on a Halloween lark, enters the bathroom. She comes in needing to use the toilet that is housing my head. Luckily, she is scared enough by the sight of my yellow eyes and the demony growl I make through my pointy teeth that she leaves without doing what she had come there to do. After she scurries out, I speak with derision (hard to be dignified when speaking from the bowl of a toilet), saying,“Kids!” Not quite immortal but a good exit line for my career.

Which acting roles are your favorites during your career?

Tops, without question, was Joshua in Little House on the Prairie. Over the years, it’s truly the only show I am proud to say I was on. The next role after Little House that I got was a lot of fun as well but wasn’t in as good a show. I played an evil, British lord named Roger Amberly in, The Bastard, a Revolutionary War era mini-series. I had a lot of fun on that job. I got to die in a sword fight and I got to work with two amazing women, Patricia Neal and Eleanor Parker, both favorites who were wonderful about sharing stories from their great films. Getting to talk to them both about their careers and lives was a tremendous thrill. Later, I got to work with Brian Keith, Scatman Crothers, Studs Terkel, Billy Barty, Rita Moreno, Eileen Brennan, Dixie Carter, Jack Warden, James Earl Jones, Mary Louise Parker and a bunch of other really cool people. In the end, I think I may have enjoyed meeting and working with great performers more than I enjoyed performing myself. 

Thanks for answering my questions!

Mark Neely and Melissa Sue Anderson in Little House on the Prairie

Video clips from Whisper Country

Video Filmography

Mark Neely in The Bastard

The Bastard (1978

TV Movie

Mark Neely in Centennial

Centennial (1978)

Season 1, Episode 8 The Storm

Mark Neely in Diff'rent Strokes

Diff'rent Strokes (1981)

Season 4, Episode 7 The Ski Weekend

Mark Neely in Matt Houston

Matt Houston (1982)

Season 4, Episode 7

Mark Neely in Trapper John M.D.

Trapper John M.D. (1985)

Season 4, Episode 7 Go for Broker 

Mark Neely in Stewardess School

Stewardess School (1986)


Mark Neely in Brothers

Brothers (1986)

Season 4, Episode 7 Lay the Points

Mark Neely in Soul Man

Soul Man (1986)


Mark Neely in Murder She Wrote

Murder She Wrote (1987)

Season 4, Episode 7 Murder, She Spoke

Mark Neely in Mama's Family

Mama's Family (1987)

Season 4, Episode 2 
Zirconias Are a Girl's Best Friend

Mark Neely in Off the Mark

Off the Mark (1987)


Mark Neely in Night Court

Night Court (1987)

Season 5, Episode 9 The Constitution

Mark Neely in The Siege of Firebase Gloria

The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1988)


Mark Neely in Just the Ten of Us

Just the Ten of Us (1989)

Season 3, Episode 6
A Couple of Swells 

Mark Neely in Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers (1990)

Season 3, Episode 6 The Sunshine Boys

Mark Neely in Designing Women

Designing Women (1989)

Season 4, Episode 11 They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?

Mark Neely in Designing Women

Designing Women (1989)

Season 5, Episode 23

Mark Neely in The Munsters Today

The Munsters Today (1991)

Season 3, Episode 23
The Bet

Mark Neely in Night of the Demons 2

Night of the Demons 2 (1994)



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