For eight seasons, when they were 3 to 11 years of age, Sidney Greenbush and her identical twin sister, Lindsay, played the part of Carrie Ingalls on the beloved TV series, “Little House on the Prairie.” I’ve been a big fan of the show ever since the two-hour pilot first aired in March 1974.
Never in a million years, not for a single second, could I ever have imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to interview one of the show’s stars on my children’s book blog. I had guessed before that Carrie was played by twins, even though the role was credited to “Lindsay Sidney Greenbush.” What I didn’t know was that my nephews, Ian and Greg (also twins), had attended the same high school as the Greenbush twins.
Sidney has said that she and Ian formed a special bond because they both faced similar challenges and experiences as a twin. How cool, though, that one day, Sidney would gift Ian’s daughter, Marin (a big Little House fan), with “Debbie,” a doll used on the show!
Seeing the episodes over and over through the years has frozen all the characters in time for me. Carrie will always be under the age of 10, a freckly-faced, brown-haired, blue-eyed cutie, frolicking in the meadow with her sisters, clutching her rag doll, and smearing her face with raspberry juice. My favorite Carrie moments just happen to center around food: making apple fritters and frosting a chocolate cake with Ma, tasting a giant strawberry with her imaginary godsister, Elissa, expertly polishing off an ear of corn, and smearing stew on Mr. Edwards’ nose.
I’ve always felt a strong emotional connection to the LH characters; at times they were my substitute family in the absence of my own. Now that I’ve had a chance to learn more about the twins, my appreciation for the work they did portraying Carrie has grown.
Sidney and Lindsay, who just celebrated their 39th birthday in May, left acting as teenagers, graduated from Santa Monica High, and then went on to college. Sidney, who is younger by three minutes, now lives on a ranch in central California, where she shows, trains, breeds, and sells American quarter horses. She’s well known on the pro-rodeo circuit as a barrel racing champion, likes to garden, write poetry, and create beautiful pieces for her custom jewelry business. We’re thrilled that she’s here to chat with us today, and thank you, friends, for submitting some great questions!
Welcome, and make yourself at home, Sidney. What would you like to eat or drink? (We’ve got Kona coffee, tea, blueberry muffins, cookies, cupcakes, pie, anything chocolate, and lots of soup!)
Mmmmmmm. Blueberry muffins are my favorite!
Some lemonade would go great with that. Wow, $1.00 a cup? ☺
We may as well begin with that famous fall in the show’s opening sequence. Was this scripted or accidental? And how do you feel about being known as “the twin who fell?”
Actually, both Lindsay and myself ran down the hill and we both fell. Neither one of us would do it again, so it was the only footage they had to work with. The next day, they reviewed the footage and found it so funny they incorporated it, and so America’s Funniest Blooper was born.
You and Lindsay were only three when the series began. Is it true that you first thought Charles and Caroline were Mary and Laura’s real-life parents, and that you were just visiting them? When did “pretending” turn into “acting” (your realization that you and your sister were working at a job)?
Um, a great question. When we started on Little House, we were actually coming off another movie called, “Sunshine,” and a few commercials. I don’t ever remember thinking that Michael or Karen were either Melissa’s parents or that we were just visiting. As far as I remember, I always knew it was work, and you had to act like a little adult and be very respectful. When you grow up doing something like this you never really know any different, so I don’t think I questioned things. I just accepted it.
What is your earliest acting memory?
My earliest memories of working are from the set of “Sunshine.” I remember playing in the ketchup, bathing in the sink, and mostly, the famous motorcycle ride at the end with Cliff DeYoung.
What was a typical day like on the LH set? Who determined which twin would appear in each scene/episode?
When we were younger, we would both work each day and it just depended on which one wasn’t napping, cranky, or would take instruction. Later, we traded off days, but I don’t remember there being a set schedule until “The Godsister” was being filmed. There were other factors that governed our working, like I broke my left arm three times and could not work with a cast on it.
You’ve said that “The Godsister,” where Carrie invents an imaginary friend, Elissa, is your favorite episode. I loved seeing both of you on the screen at the same time, not to mention those giant strawberries and grapes! What was the best part about filming this episode? Did it make you wish for more storylines featuring Carrie?
Of course we always wished for more stories about Carrie. I liked filming “The Godsister,” because it gave Lindsay and me a chance to prove we were getting older and could handle more serious roles. I remember there are two scenes that were filmed in one take. Later in my career, I was described as a young Katherine Hepburn, and I was extremely flattered.
Have you read all the Little House books? If so, how old were you when you first read them, and what were your impressions? Did anything stand out as being “not right” or vastly different when compared to the TV series?
We had the books while we were filming on the set, and I have read them a few times. I remember questioning why Michael changed the story from the books sometimes, or added characters that didn’t exist.
Is there anything especially interesting about the real Carrie Ingalls that you learned because of working on the show?
The real Caroline “Carrie” Ingalls was an amazing woman who worked for the paper as well as an accountant for the funding of Mount Rushmore. The man she married, David Swanzey, was a widower with a son and daughter. Carrie took the kids in and raised them as her own while she was working. Her husband was responsible for naming Mount Rushmore, and there was a tribute to Carrie at the initial dedication ceremony.
Some of my favorite Carrie moments are of her at the table. I especially loved “Ma’s Holiday,” when Mr. Edwards stayed with the girls and cooked them Injun Stew (made with rattlesnake meat). Were you the one who smeared food on Mr. Edwards’ face?
On episodes that are that old, I have to see the actual clip to tell for sure if it is me. Sometimes, both Lindsay and I filmed a scene and it just depended on which clip they used. I do know it is me that plays peekaboo from under the bed, and it is also me who is tied to the laundry post. Both Lindsay and I remember being harnessed to the roof. Victor used to play with us kids and I love and miss him.
“Little House on the Prairie” had an amazing cast. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for each of these actors:
Michael Landon (Pa): Prankster
Karen Grassle: (Ma): Loving
Melissa Gilbert: (Laura): 1/2 pint
Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary): Mysterious
Alison Arngrim (Nellie): Classic Comedian
Victor French (Mr. Edwards): Can’t Laugh Staring Contest (game we played)
Kyle Richards (Alicia Edwards): Sister
Jonathan Gilbert (Willie): Wish I knew where he was. Used to have a mutual friend.
Matthew Laborteaux (Albert):: Both Matt and Pat were like big brothers.
Your father, Billy Green Bush, was a well-known character actor. Did you and Lindsay receive formal training in acting? Who or what had the most influence on your career? Do you miss acting now?
I miss actually acting, but I don’t miss the running around on interviews. We did receive formal training while we were on the show and a few years after. I used to go to work with my Dad when he was filming and hang out on the set with him. I used to love to go to work with him. Probably my mom had the most influence on our careers, because without her taking us to work and on interviews, the whole thing would not have been possible. She gave up a lot to let us work.
TV shows come and go, but few become beloved, enduring classics with a permanent place in television history like LHOTP. How do you think being part of this incredible experience has shaped the person you are today?
I feel very blessed and fortunate to have been part of something so special.
I read that you are creating a book based on your LHOTP memories. How is that coming along?
I was working on a book that had some personal photographs and memories. It is coming along, but I have not found a publisher to pick up the project yet. So, for now, it is just in the works.
Any public appearances coming up that you’d like to mention?
We will be in Keystone, South Dakota, for Holy Terror Days* in September. There will be eleven cast members and myself. This will be a fun event and the second time I have been to the Black Hills.
Movies, TV Shows, Actors: “Moulin Rouge,” “The Big Bang Theory,” Ewan McGregor.
Books and/or Authors: I love to read but do not have an absolute favorite.
Songs, Musicians, Groups: “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down. My favorite artist is P!nk.
Food and Drink: Beef Sukiyaki and Raspberry Ice Tea.
Your Three Fondest Wishes:
To live well, laugh often, and be surrounded by great friends.
Do you like to cook, and would you share a favorite recipe with us?
I love to cook. The next time you make lasagna, instead of layering your noodles, underboil them slightly and then lay them on a cutting board. Place a little filling the length of the noodle and then roll it up like a sleeping bag. Set it in a casserole dish. When all of the noodles are done, cover with sauce and bake. This is rolled lasagna.
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit today, Sidney. Please extend our love and regards to Lindsay. We’ll continue to enjoy seeing you in Walnut Grove!
*Click here to find out more about Holy Terror Days, which will be held Labor Day Weekend, September 4-6, 2009, in Keystone, South Dakota. The LHOTP Reunion will feature special appearances by the Greenbush twins, Karen Grassle, Alison Arngrim, Charlotte Stewart, and the Turnbaugh twins, among others, and lots of fun activities, like autograph and Q&A sessions, and an auction of cast and show memorabilia.
♥ To see Sidney in the famous opening sequence, and some scenes from “The Godsister,” click here and here.
♥ To read the original post about how this interview came about (a little girl’s birthday, a doll, and a TV show), click here.
♥ Any other questions? Jewelry inquiries? Contact Sidney directly: SRGreenbush (at) aol (dot com).
A great set for diehard LH fans: all 9 seasons on 60 discs! (Does not include 2-hour pilot, but has great special features, including interviews with cast members and episode commentary by Alison Arngrim.)