Queens, NY

Using Astoria, Queens As Her Backdrop, This Actress Writes And Creates Her Own Unique Comedy Series

Jeryl Brunner

In the comedy series "Livin’ On The Prairie" Pamela is doing her best to navigate feeling isolated, nervous and socially awkward. She finds happiness escaping to what might be considered the un-coolest TV show of the 1970s, otherwise known as "Little House on the Prairie."

(From left) Mary Theresa Archbold and Pamela Bob in a scene from "Livin' On A Prairie' Courtesy Livin' On A Prairie

So much of Pamela’s existence is viewed from the lens of this groundbreaking historical drama about a family settling in the wild west from the 1870s to the 1890s.

“It is not just a fluffy family show,” says Pamela Bob who created, wrote, stars and co-produced "Livin' On A Prairie" which was an official selection at the Tribeca TV Festival. “The topics they covered were seriously hard core. Racism, drugs, rape, anti-semitism, you name it, they had it. Like my character says in Livin’ On a Prairie, ‘Some serious sh*t went down on that Prairie!’”

Astoria, Queens where Bob has lived for 18 years played an essential role in the series. The film was shot all around Astoria including at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, Zorba’s Souvlaki and Astoria Park. “Astoria is an epicenter of filming in New York City, not just because Kaufman Astoria and Silver Cup studios are here, because of its diverse outdoor locations and Astoria Park,” says Bob who adds that she often finds TV and film crews filming throughout her neighborhood, sometimes on her street. "I would fantasize that one day I’d be able to just roll out of bed and walk to set," she shares. "That dream came true!”

Livin' On A Prairie has won several awards from film festivals. Courtesy Livin' On A Prairie

Jeryl Brunner: What inspired you to create "Livin' On A Prairie"?

Pamela Bob: It came to me in a dream! When it happened, I felt an electric bolt shoot through my body, so much so that I sat straight up in bed when it happened. I knew I had to make this, no matter what. It was totally wild!

Jeryl Brunner: How did you get so connected to the series?

Pamela Bob: I was really in the generation that watched the shows on re-runs. Every day, at 5pm Monday-Friday, channel 11 played "Little House On the Prairie." And from the moment I first saw it, I was completely hooked. Every day I cried, laughed, and shared in the love of that community, those people, the lessons and the unconditional love. What I didn’t realize until adulthood was how "Little House" had become totally ingrained into my personal DNA.

Jeryl Brunner: When did you first discover and fall in love with "Little House On The Prairie?"

Pamela Bob: My mother was looking for something I could watch on TV, and there was Little House. It was the episode where Kim Richards played Olga, a girl with uneven legs. Nellie was nasty to her, Laura befriended her, and Pa made her corrective shoes for her. It was the full spectrum of the Little House experience! And I was absolutely, totally and completely swept away.

Jeryl Brunner: What is happening with the series?

Pamela Bob: After being selected to premiere at the Tribeca TV festival, and winning several film festivals, my writing partner, Jeff Pheiffer, and I are now developing Livin’ On a Prairie into a half hour series. Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on "Little House on the Prairie" and is a successful TV and Documentary producer, is now attached to the piece. He has been instrumental in its development. If you had told me, as a younger person, that one day I’d be working along side my childhood crush, Almanzo, I would have never believed it. Not in a million years. Life is crazy and beautiful.

Jeryl Brunner: Why is the series still so relevant today?

Pamela Bob: There are uber-fans whose mothers or grandmothers exposed them to the show. It has been passed down from generation to generation. Many parents are taking this time at home to introduce it to their kids, or just to re-watch it themselves.Because it is a historical piece set in the 1870s, Little House remains timeless. Just ignore some characters with French tip nails or perms towards the end of the series. The themes of community, unconditional love, family and home are also timeless.

Jeryl Brunner: It really was ahead of its time.

Pamela Bob: During this pandemic and awakening of civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter, Little House on the Prairie exploded, because it tackled all of these themes. The episodes “The Wisdom of Solomon”,“The Plague” and “Quarantine” became a viral sensations. They tackled, unrelentlessly, the harsh realities of race and discrimination, and also paralleled what we were going through with Covid, with an almost eerie specificity.

Little House also represents true community, of coming together for the common good. Morality, goodness, and loving thy neighbor. Standing up for what’s right. People are desperately seeking this from the real world, and Little House provides. For many, like my character in “Livin’ On a Prairie”, people are getting from this show what they wished they were getting from real life.

Jery Brunner: Do people need to know "Little House" in order to appreciate "Livin' on the Prairie"?

Pamela Bob: It’s important for people to know that Livin’ On a Prairie is not about Little House On the Prairie. You do not need to have ever seen Little House on the Prairie to understand it. Like anyone obsessed, Little House could be swapped out with Game of Thrones, Star Wars, whatever Superhero character you love, etc. The story is about what happens when we cannot reconcile those things we get from fiction into our real lives. And we can all relate to that. But for those serious Prairie fans out there, Livin’ On a Prairie is definitely a giant inside joke!

Jeryl Brunner: So many people dream of doing even piece of something creative like you are doing and you are writing, creating, producing, acting in this series. What would you advise people who want to create something like this but don't have the courage, confidence or resources? 

Pamela Bob: Just do it. Don’t worry about the “how”. Start writing. Don’t have a camera? Pick up your iPhone. Get it out there into the Universe. If you really believe in it, you will be surprised by how much your joyous momentum will get the ball rolling, in ways you couldn’t even plan.

Jeryl Brunner: Some Little House cast members on the series. How did you get them?

Pamela Bob: Long story short, Alison Arngrim (aka Nellie Oleson) and I had met through a mutual friend. When I was doing a play on Broadway, she came to see it and from there, our friendship blossomed. When I got the idea for "Livin’ On a Prairie," she agreed to do it without hesitation. It was through her that she contacted the rest of the cast about the series. That’s when the wonderful Charlotte Stewart hopped on board! It killed me that I couldn’t use more cast members, but once the half hour version of the show is in production, I want to incorporate as many beloved "Little House" cast members as possible.

Jeryl Brunner: And then you had cast members of "Little House" on talk backs after the show.

Pamela Bob: When I released "Livin’ On a Prairie" to the public, I incorporated cast interviews from "Little House" after each short episode. I interviewed Alison Arngrim, Charlotte Stewart, Dean Butler (Almanzo) and Karen Grassle (Caroline Ingalls), Hersha Parady (Alice Garvey), Radames Pera (John Jr.), Dave Friedman (Jason Carter), Wendi Lou Lee (Baby Grace), Pamela Roylance (Sarah Carter) and Dan T. McBride. It was an amazing experience to now talk and become friends with my heroes. And even more amazing, was that they all agreed to do it because they loved "Livin’ On a Prairie," believed in it and my work. What a huge boost and honor, to say the least. sx

Jeryl Brunner: Why was it important to have Little House cast members in your series?

Pamela Bob: Working with Charlotte and Alison was surreal. Watching them in front of the camera was like seeing a masterclass every single take. They are total pros. People associate Alison Arngrim with her Little House character, Nellie—but her work in "Livin’ On a Prairie" is so nuanced, so grounded, so beautiful. Not what people would expect! While we were shooting our episode, I was supposed to be very emotional and crying-during the scene. Before every take, she would lean in to me and whisper something like “Michael Landon would have loved you”, and BAM, there went the waterworks! It was extraordinary that she was passing on the same technique that Michael Landon would use on the kids of Little House to get them to a deeper emotional place before a high intensity scene. And here I was, the recipient of the “Michael Landon technique”.

The cast from Little House are some of the finest actors I have ever seen on television. All of these people should have received Emmy nominations and awards (even Michael Landon never received an Emmy!). The gift that they gave millions of viewers, now for 50 YEARS, is unparalleled in television history. So I felt a duty to pay it forward, in a way, and it was a great honor to do so.

Jeryl Brunner: Also, Alison Arngrim and Charlotte Stewart play the opposite of their "Little House" characters.

Pamela Bob: I also wanted to take the "Little House" stereotype and flip it on its head. For example, with Alison Arngrim is not really seen as anything else other than the iconic villain, Nellie Oleson. So I made her my very sensible, very grounded, very anti-Nellie Life Coach. I did the same for Charlotte Stewart, who on Little House played the sweet, innocent teacher, Miss Beadle. But in reality, Charlotte was a wild woman! So I made her a bartender, with dark goth eyeliner and tattoos all over her arms. For fans of Little House on the Prairie, to see these beloved actors this way is a real laugh and a wonderful surprise. And it’s great fun for the actors, too, to break out of that stigma.

Pamela Bob Lia Chang Photography

Comments / 0

Published by

New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY

More from Jeryl Brunner

Comments / 0