Melissa Gilbert grew up on television. For 10 years she played "Half Pint," the nickname for her character, Laura Ingalls Wilder, on the "Little House on the Prairie" series (1974-84). A writer, director, actor and mother of two sons and two stepsons, the 47-year-old split from second husband Bruce Boxleitner in summer after 15 years of marriage.
Her autobiography, "Prairie Tale: A Memoir," (2009) looks at growing up on "Little House" and more, including struggles with alcohol.
She stars in the Hallmark Channel movie "The Christmas Pageant" airing at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Q: Your character in "The Christmas Pageant" is fired. Have you ever been fired?
A: I have never been fired, but I've been broken up with. It's funny, people should start using that now: "You're fired, you're not my girlfriend anymore." (Laughs)
Q: You have done just about everything in the industry. Are you a perfectionist?
A: I think that I have high expectations of myself. I push myself hard. I don't know if I'm a perfectionist, because I don't think perfection is attainable or achievable. I used to try really hard all the time to be perfect, and it kind of made me crazy and sick, to be honest.
There is one thing I can guarantee and that is whatever I do in my life I am going to make mistakes. I have to allow myself those mistakes. It's part of staying sober, too. So I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, but I am particular.
Q: You spent your childhood acting. Did it ever feel like work back then?
A: When I was a young teenager is when it got difficult. At least as I've observed it, the teenage years are ... when we are supposed to be somewhat undisciplined and stretching the boundaries.
I remember not wanting to wear those petticoats and pantaloons and stuff. I remember wanting to dress like everybody my age did. I remember wanting to change my hair, and I wasn't allowed to. Apparently a nose job was OK (laughing), that I got a green light for. But the other stuff, I had to stay disciplined, and I had to maintain my work ethic.
Q: In your book "Prairie Tale," you are open about your struggles with alcohol and your life. You seem to have maintained a good moral compass.
A: It comes from my parents. It comes from a sense of faith, a belief in something greater than myself. ... I know the difference between right and wrong, and I exact a heavy price when I am wrong or bad or whatever. I beat myself up more than anybody. So I'm not sure where it came from. I think it just is, and I think everybody has it, or most people do.