The “perfect storm” of a flagging acting career, a messy divorce and the Great Recession were the reasons actress Melissa Gilbert cited for how she accumulated a massive amount of federal tax debt. But it’s not why the former “Little House on the Prairie” child star says her family is moving out of a three-bedroom home about 50 miles northwest of Detroit into a nearby log house in the woods.
"Like so many people across the nation, the recession hit me hard," Gilbert said in a statement to the Detroit News Friday after news emerged she owes $360,551 in unpaid federal taxes from 2011 to 2013. “That, plus a divorce and a dearth of acting opportunities the last few years, created a perfect storm of financial difficulty for me."
It's official. We are moving. In a couple of weeks. Into our own Little House in the Big Woods. I'm serious. It's a log house in the woods!
â€” Melissa Gilbert (@MelissaEGilbert) June 4, 2015
The IRS filed a lien in February, adding to a similar move by tax authorities in California who say Gilbert owes nearly $113,000 to the state. The actress moved from California to Michigan in 2013 after marrying actor-director Timothy Busfield, who won an Emmy for his role in the 1987 film “Thirtysomething” about young Philadelphia couples coping with adult angst. Gilbert divorced “How the West Was Won” and “Babylon 5” actor Bruce Boxleitner in 2011.
Gilbert and Michigan native Busfield and their two boys had been living for the past couple of years in a 2,000-square-foot Victorian-era home near downtown Howell, giving the community of 10,000 a little star power. The couple said the move to more rustic living conditions has nothing to do with their financial situation.
Though Gilbert has faced what often plagues actresses in the sexist Hollywood environment -- a loss of acting roles as they age -- Gilbert has some income as a writer. She recently wrote “My Prairie Cookbook” and a memoir.
Gilbert is most famous for playing a fictional version of writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ingalls' children’s books about her life as the young daughter in a late-19th-century settler’s family inspired the popular NBC television series “Little House on the Prairie,” which ran for nine seasons until 1982. Gilbert won two Youth in Films awards for that role.
Gilbert has had minor roles in recent years, including appearances on “West Wing,” “Nip/Tuck” and “The Night Shift.” She showed up last year as a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars.”
Correction: The original version of this story said Gilbert had roles in the films "Field of Dreams" and "Revenge of the Nerds." In fact, it was her husband Timothy Busfield who performed in those films.