Dean Butler was born in Canada in 1956 but grew up in northern California. In 1979, he landed the role of Almanzo Wilder on Little House on the Prairie. Butler would appear in the original series, a spinoff and three made-for-television movies. After Little House ended, he starred in a syndicated series, sang on Broadway and appeared in TV guest roles. He also works as a documentary filmmaker.
Early Life and Acting Career
Dean Butler was born on May 20, 1956, in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. He grew up in Piedmont, California, a suburb of San Francisco.
Pursuing his interest in acting, Butler found work in 1976 as an extra in The Streets of San Francisco. He also appeared in commercials, including ones for McDonald's and Coke.
For his first big role, Butler co-starred with Stephanie Zimbalist in Forever (1978), a TV movie based on the Judy Blume novel. However, though Butler went on many auditions after Forever, he didn't land any acting jobs for a couple of years, and ended up working in a furniture store to earn money.
Little House on the Prairie
One of Butler's unsuccessful auditions was for Little House on the Prairie, the popular series based on books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Butler tried out for the part of Adam Kendall, who would romance Mary Ingalls). When it came time in 1979 to cast the role of Almanzo Wilder, husband-to-be for Laura Ingalls, the casting director remembered Butler, and this time he landed the part. He started work just a few days after graduating from the University of the Pacific.
Though there were some awkward moments in the beginning — Butler, who had just turned 23, was acting opposite a 15-year-old Melissa Gilbert — the show's viewers embraced him in the role. Butler appeared on Little House from September 1979 until the series ended in 1982. He also starred in the spinoff series Little House: A New Beginning (1982-83) and was seen in three final Little House TV specials: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1984) and Little House: The Last Farewell (1984).
In 1985, Butler had a part in the film Desert Hearts. That same year he starred in the TV movie Gidget's Summer Reunion, playing Moondoggie, Gidget's husband; he soon reprised the role in the syndicated series The New Gidget. Butler made his Broadway debut when he joined the cast of Into the Woods. He later guest starred on programs such as Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Butler now serves as an executive producer for Legacy Documentaries. In this role he's created bonus content for Little House on the Prairie DVD releases. He's also produced the original documentaries Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura and Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition, he has worked on sports documentaries and programming.
Butler is married to actress Katherine Cannon. He remains friends with many of his Little House co-stars, including his onscreen wife Melissa Gilbert.
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