If you thought NBC's 10.5 pushed the envelope when it came to heaping natural disaster upon natural disaster, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The new 10.5: Apocalypse (May 21 and 23 at 9 pm/ET) picks up immediately after the harrowing events of the original and continues the devastation, threatening to split the North American continent right down the middle if super-seismologist Kim Delaney and her team of FEMA heroes can't find a way to glue God's green earth back together. Playing first lady to "President" Beau Bridges in the sequel is Melissa Anderson, who has come a long way 25 years, in fact from her Little House on the Prairie days.
TVGuide.com: As you can understand, it gives a veteran TV-lover like myself a warm feeling to see you back on screen again.
Melissa Anderson: Aww, thank you....
TVGuide.com: Why 10.5: Apocalypse for your "return"?
Anderson: [Writer-director] John Lafia and [executive producer] Gary Pearl found out that I had retired because I had kids, and they really wanted the first lady to be warm and really into her daughter and all that, so they thought I would be the person for it. I went in and met with them, and it worked out great!
TVGuide.com: You must have liked the idea of having Beau Bridges for your husband.
Anderson: I was thrilled. Thrilled. I had to tell him on the very first day that I had seen, with my best friends, The Other Side of the Mountain about five times and sobbed every time. [Laughs] He loved that.
TVGuide.com: It's rather "in vogue" these days to play a TV president, vice president or first lady. Look at 24, Prison Break, Commander in Chief....
Anderson: That's right, that's right. I have to say, of all the characters I ever thought I would play, a first lady never occurred to me. It was very fun to do.
TVGuide.com: This must have been semifamiliar territory for you, having starred in the TV-movie Earthquake in New York.
Anderson: Yes, yes, and I was happy to be able to stay clean and look nice the whole time! A lot of my roles haven't been that way. Even on The Equalizer, I was kidnapped and always in peril.... It was nice to be on the other end for a change!
TVGuide.com: I still get a lump in my throat when I think of Little House's Mary going blind. But I forget, did it happen in a fire or...?
Anderson: No, the fire thing came after. It was scarlet fever that weakened the nerves and eventually made her go blind.
TVGuide.com: I do remember you had this "ethereal" look to your eyes....
Anderson: My eyes are very blue, sort of aquamarine, so especially in the daylight they tend to photograph very, very blue.
TVGuide.com: Back then, being sans Entertainment Tonight or the like, didn't people actually think you had gone blind?
Anderson: They did. I received many letters, often from blind people. It was touching and it made me feel great that my research had come through. I really worked hard on that.
TVGuide.com: So tell me, when Melissa Gilbert was Screen Actors Guild president, did you get away with murder, or what?
TVGuide.com: Did you need to ask her for any presidential pardons? Or did Half-Pint ever threaten you with an ol' fashioned whoopin' if you were late with dues?
Anderson: No, no... none of that happened....
TVGuide.com: Did you at least vote for her?
Anderson: I did, of course!
TVGuide.com: What's the edgiest TV show Melissa Anderson watches?
Anderson: I'm a pretty big fan of The Sopranos.
TVGuide.com: They should have you on! Christopher could slug you, like Lauren Bacall!
Anderson: I would kill... this always sounds funny for me, but I would literally kill to be on The Sopranos. [Laughs] I was in L.A. a year and a half or so ago at Disney, and I was wearing my Sopranos baseball cap, and we got in for free! "Wow, you're so cool!"
TVGuide.com: Did they think you were Lorraine Bracco or something?
Anderson: I don't know what they thought, but they were so thrilled they let us in!
TVGuide.com: Just how many times were you on The Love Boat?
Anderson: Oh, my gosh... I did at least three of the Hollywood-shot ones, and then I did one cruise.
TVGuide.com: Ever get to ask someone into your cabin "for a nightcap"?
Anderson: [Laughs] I don't remember!
TVGuide.com: Life was so much simpler in the "Would you like to come in for a nightcap?" days. Which of your roles has been the guiltiest pleasure?
Anderson: [The 1981 horror film] Happy Birthday to Me would be my pick, except that about halfway through they changed the ending and made me the good guy as opposed to the bad guy, and it kind of screwed up the movie. I certainly didn't like it I was tired of being the "good girl" all the time! I liked it the way it was originally.
TVGuide.com: Wow, this is totally screaming for a digitally remastered, 25th-anniversary director's-cut DVD.
TVGuide.com: Looking ahead, do you hope to treat us to TV appearances more frequently than every five years or so?
Anderson: I think so. My kids are older now my son is almost 10, and he's my "little one" so they now think it's kind of cool that I might get out and work a little. All in all, I'd like to edge my way back in a bit, yeah!