Melissa Ellen Gilbert (born May 8, 1964) is an American actress and television director.
Gilbert began her career as a child actress in the late 1960s appearing in numerous commercials and guest starring roles on television. From 1974 to 1984, she starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the NBC series Little House on the Prairie. During the run of Little House, Gilbert appeared in several popular television films including The Diary of Anne Frank and The Miracle Worker.
Gilbert had already done dozens of commercials, including one for Alpo dog food with Lorne Greene (Michael Landon's television father on Bonanza) and attended school with his daughter, Leslie Landon. It was Leslie who informed her that she had won the role of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, beating out over 500 child actresses for the part. The pilot was shot in 1973 and was a ratings success. Almost a year later Gilbert began filming the series. Gilbert became extremely close to the Landon family after her adoptive father died. But a rift developed between Michael Landon and Gilbert after the revelation of Landon's affair with Little House's young makeup artist, Cindy Clerico.