Born in December 1966, Matthew Labyorteaux was adopted as a baby. Though he didn't speak until he was 5 and often threw tantrums, he was supported by his family and went on to be a successful child actor. From 1978 to 1983, he appeared as Albert Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Labyorteaux later became a voice actor whose credits include animated series and films, including 1998's Mulan, as well as video games.
Early Life and Acting Career
Matthew Charles Labyorteaux was born in Los Angeles, California, on December 8, 1966. As a baby, he was adopted by Frankie and Ron Labyorteaux.
The future actor faced many challenges as a youngster: He had a hole in his heart at birth that doctors felt would heal on its own. In addition, he didn't walk until he was 3, never spoke until the age of 5 and often threw tantrums. He was diagnosed as being autistic, and experts told his parents that Labyorteaux might never lead a normal life.
Labyorteaux's older brother Patrick had found success as a child actor, and one day Labyorteaux was invited to audition for a role as well. To his mother's surprise, Labyorteaux didn't throw a tantrum; he also landed the part. Labyorteaux soon got another role in the acclaimed John Cassavetes film A Woman Under the Influence (1974), co-starring Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands.
'Little House on the Prairie'
In 1976, Labyorteaux added Little House on the Prairie to his acting resumé when he appeared as a younger version of Charles Ingalls, the lead character played by Michael Landon. Labyorteaux returned as young Charles for another episode the next season. In 1977 he also landed roles in two other TV series: Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and The Red Hand Gang.
In Little House's fifth season, which began in 1978, Labyorteaux stepped into a new role: Albert, an abandoned boy who became the adopted son of Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle). (The Little House series was based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the TV show often diverged from its source material. Albert was one such diversion—his character did not appear in the books. Instead, it was Landon who created the character of Albert, choosing the name to honor the deceased son of friends.)
Having a regular role on Little House was a comfortable step for Labyorteaux; not only had he acted on the show before, but his brother Patrick also had a part on the series playing Andy Garvey. During his time on the program, Labyorteaux's ability to tear up was put to good use in dramatic story lines, such as when Albert accidentally caused a deadly fire.
Labyorteaux stayed on the show through its eighth season, which ended in 1982. He guest starred on the spin-off Little House: A New Beginning in 1983, depicting Albert's struggles with a morphine addiction. Labyorteaux was last seen as part of the franchise in the TV movie Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983); in the special, Albert, unlucky to the end, was diagnosed with leukemia. (During his time on Little House, Labyorteaux was credited as Matthew Laborteaux.)
Screen and Voiceover Work
Even with a busy acting career, Labyorteaux found time to pursue an interest in gaming. He grew up loving pinball and video games like Centipede. In 1982, he triumphed in a celebrity Pac-Man tournament.
After his regular role on Little House ended, Labyorteaux joined the series Whiz Kids (1983-84). Then in 1986, he appeared in the TV movie Shattered Spirits and was seen on the big screen in Wes Craven's Deadly Friend, with Kristy Swanson.
As an adult, Labyorteaux experienced further success as a voice actor (and is now usually credited with his last name spelled as Labyorteaux). He's contributed to video games, live-action films and animated projects, with credits that include Mulan (1998), Everyone's Hero (2006) and Bride Wars (2009). Labyorteaux has also participated in several Little House on the Prairie cast reunions. In 2014, 40 years after the show first premiered, he appeared on the Today show and took part in a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly.
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