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Person to Person (January 1983)


Roger Ellwood's Hollywood Roundup


Melissa Sue Anderson is one of the more shy individuals I've met during 21 years of interviewing celebrities. You feel instantly disposed toward taking her into your arms and protecting her.

"I've been aware of that for a long time with people I met," Melissa commented. "I enjoy being protected because I'm also independent and I never let the protection smother me. If I weren't the independent type, then I don't think that sort of thing would have been good for me, for anybody over the years.

"I come off timid in certaln situations because I don't talk much. But I think it's pointless just to talk unless you have something to say. When I don't have something to say, I sit back and listen to those around me. I try to learn from what I hear."

Melissa's feelings are easily hurt. Unfortunately she is in a profession where this can happen frequently.

"It's true. I'm working on that though. I try not to be so sensitive but I'm just naturally that kind of person. But I'd rather be this way than callous, uncaring, cold."

She smiled, then: "As far as my work goes, anybody can be totally honest and it doesn't bother me - because I know my business."

Michael Landon has a reputation for being somewhat hard to work with, you know, the "His word is law" sort of thing. I asked Melissa about this.

"I like Michael. He has done so much for my career. But I learned never to argue with him. Actors working with him have no input. That means you never say anything. You don't allow yourself to be temperamental. You don't walk off the set. You stand there and do what he wants, even though you may feel, sometimes, that your own approach would have been better in a particular scene.

"1 know that, in the long run, he's got more experience than I do, and he's probably right in the way he wants things done. It's just that sometimes you feel that he's got it all mapped out in his mind, with no possibility for changes, no matter how good these might be. The only way you ever approach Michael about something he wanted but with which you totally disagreed is to say, 'Excuse me, sir but do you think it might be okay if I do this instead?' Usually he'll reply, "I don't think so." There were occasions when he'd compromise but those were very, very rare."

It was clear, as she spoke, that Melissa wasn't angry or bitter: it was likewise clear that she respected Michael Landon but that she wished he had been just a bit more flexible and less heavy-headed in his approach to actors.

"After all, he's an actor himself." she remarked. "It's curious that he doesn't feel more rapport with an actor's inner self."

But with Little House behind her, Melissa's got an exceptionally bright future ahead of her as an actress.

"I think I can do some really good roles. I think I have the right kind of potential. Being on the show for so long did teach me a great deal. That's why I'm grateful to Michael. I grew a lot working with him. But now I have moved on, to theatre and TV movies and movie-movies.

"Being on stage was quite an experience, six weeks on stage, in fact. It's exhausting. Certain times I would become very depressed in my dressingroom. I wasn't used to putting on my own makeup: and I was saying the same words night after night. I started out by thinking that I would really hate stage work. But after awhile I adapted, to a certain extent. The dread of going on before a live audience was still there, though not as intense, but when I actually got into the performance, it was fun, and comparatively easy. Making people laugh was wonderful.

"We had a few bad audiences, though. I mean, I felt like saying to them, 'You out here, why did you come here?' Maybe they were enjoying themselves but they sure weren't showing it. They didn't laugh: they didn't applaud; they didn't do anything.

"But I didn't let it bother me for long. I might be shy but I'm not weak. And I think I'm able to bounce back from just about anything."