When the ninth season of TLC’s beloved Little People, Big World premieres Tuesday night, the entire Roloff clan is together again at the farm for the first time in two years.
Twins Zach and Jeremy, 23, and Molly, 20, are all home from college, joining 16-year-old brother Jacob and mom and dad Matt and Amy for a summer spent reconnecting while they expand the family business, prepare for pumpkin season and help four more couples realize their dream weddings.
We caught up with Matt and Amy Roloff recently to talk about the new season’s adventures, new and old challenges, having a houseful of kids again and how they feel about their loyal fans.
Channel Guide Magazine: Viewers have watched your family go through so many changes and challenges, including some really tough emotional stuff in recent seasons. What’s it like for you to be able to treat fans to an 8-episode season of the entire family together again?
Matt Roloff: It’s awesome. That’s why it came together — the whole family was going to be back, so TLC talked to us about maybe filming an update and it turned into a whole season. So we’re excited about sharing our ongoing family adventures with everybody.
Amy Roloff: It’s amazing. We just got done filming our ninth season, and to have the kids spread their wings and figure out what they want to do in life and then come back and fall back in love with the farm — as parents, it’s always great to have your kids back and enjoy some family time and just good storytelling, really. Our house has become kind of the pitstop now, but I’m just glad they want to come back!
CGM: I’m an empty-nester now, too, and, even though my own four kids love each other completely, I’m trying to imagine what might happen if they were all back under one roof for an entire summer. Was it all love, or was there some friction, too?
AR: For the most part, all of the kids get along great. Jacob has never really been his own ‘empty nester‘ — his siblings have always been around — so for him to have them all gone, he’s definitely been going through his challenges. So you see a little bit of that there. But I’m just so appreciative of having them all come back.
But then it’s hard to have them come back, too, because you struggle with your own adjustments being empty nesters, and then they all come back and you’re like, “Wow. We were just beginning to get used to this and now they’re back!”
But it’s all good. I love being a mom, and Matt wonders if he’s got another project left in him, so we enjoy having everyone back.
MR: When everybody comes back, all the energy goes way, way up. Jacob, obviously, is excited to see all of his brothers and sisters back, and Amy and I love having all the kids around. They’re all abuzz and they’ve got their friends coming over and so we just enjoy it. We love the idea of having the kids come back often and for as long as they possibly can. It was a great, great, fabulous summer and it’s kind of sad to see it winding down.
AR: One of the things that I’m excited about, having gone through nine seasons and having Jacob have the majority of his life on camera, is that they did want to get off the farm. They did want to see what else is out there and spread their wings and explore their own lives. But they also appreciate and love coming back. They were good about filming this ninth season and kind of retelling their story as far as where they’re at.
So I’m just really appreciative that the kids continue to keep finding themselves, but are not locked into what we do here on the farm or TV or any of that.
CGM: Looks like the whole family is involved in some major happenings on the farm this season. Can you tell me a little bit about what we’ll see?
MR: One of our big, big focuses this year was to reinvent our pumpkin season, so we introduced an area that we were calling the Adventure Zone. Just kind of providing for kids anywhere from 2 years old up to 16 years old a more interactive experience, taking some of the ideas that we’ve implemented over the years for our own kids and condensing them into an area where kids can come out and interact and get involved in a little ‘danger‘ — go through an obstacle course and climb some pyramids.
We’ve been open now a couple weekends and it’s just been tremendously successful. We had one of our biggest pumpkin days in three or four years yesterday and so we’re really, really excited about it, and the cameras followed us as we tried to find that balance between hosting the weddings and having those out here as late as September and building this new adventure zone.
So it was a wild summer, I’ll tell ya — in real life! The cameras were just capturing what was really going on. We were juggling trying to keep the battle going on all fronts. It was a challenge, and we’re energized by the success of it.
CGM: Four couples tie the knot on the farm during Season 9. Tell me a little bit more about that.
AR: We’re pretty proud that four couples wanted to get married on the farm! I mean, we raised our kids here, and so to know that someone is beginning their life together and that started here on the farm, it humbles you. It reinforces what a special environment we do have here.
Each of these couples. they’re young for the most part, and they each have their own ideas about what they want their wedding to be. And my kids were here, and they were looking at what they might want to do if they got married, so that was kind of interesting, too. It was just special.
You’ll see one wedding where, if they survive their wedding day, then they have as good a chance of surviving their life together.
MR: Yeah, we had some disasters along the way.
AR: But each of the couples is young and unique — and very country. And there were some really unique ways of how they got engaged. It was really neat to learn their stories.
CGM: In the previews, we see, well, fire. A big one. Is hoping that it’s a controlled burn and you entirely meant for that to happen too much to ask for ….?
MR: MATT ROLOFF MAKE FIRE! [laughs].
Oh you know, I’m up to the same old shenanigans! I try to behave myself, but it gets away from me sometimes. And, of course, Amy reels me back in when needed. There’s not much more to say than that. I’m always coming up with new things and reinventing things and changing things out and we’re just working together on how to make it all happen and have fun and give a great family life to the kids.
CGM: Matt, in recent seasons and specials, we’ve seen you especially have to adapt your lifestyle and your mindset because of increasing physical challenges. How does that affect you in Season 9?
MR: What you’re going to see in general is Matt Roloff not able to get around as well. I’ve got some bad shoulders going on and I think that’s really apparent because the way I walk around is to use my shoulders.
My shoulders are disintegrating as predicted by my form of dwarfism, just the deterioration of the joints. So in the last year, we’ve had a pretty significant downturn in my mobility and so I’ve got my little runaround carts that I use and I try to get out there and it’s a “my mind is willing, but my body is not” kind of thing.
Amy’s healthy as a horse, that’s for sure! But I’m definitely slowing down.
CGM: Amy, what has that been like for you, both as Matt’s spouse and as an individual?
AR: Being little people with different kinds of dwarfism, it takes a different kind of toll on us. We slowed down a lot quicker than maybe an average-sized person.
So that’s taken its toll on Matt’s body a little quicker than mine and that is an adjustment for me also, trying not to totally quit on the things that I’m able to do and not feel guilty about that and manage my life — but also to manage and understand what Matt is going through, too. Because he used to be able to go, go, go and suddenly he’s slowing down a lot quicker than maybe we both want him to.
But whatever people may say, I’ve learned long ago — or I should say I try — that you do the best you can in the moment and in your life, and not everyone has that clear understanding that you yourself do living through it. So people can interpret, and people can say different things, because we definitely put out a story about our life. You just have to stay strong and do your best and believe you’re doing the right thing.
CGM: How important is that to you — to tell an honest story, even though it might subject you to some backlash?
AR: I try to be as honest as I can be. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so much [laughs].
But I don’t want people to see two different people. I don’t want them to see Amy on this reality show and another Amy in real life. I want to be relatable — still someone they can walk up to, still someone that could be their best friend, just whatever interpretation that they may have felt when they see me on the show. I don’t want to live two different lives. And for the majority of the last ten years, TV has been part of it and we think it’s much better to live an honest and real life on TV as best we can.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know every little ounce of our private lives. We give enough to let people know we’re a family just like them. We’re going through our different challenges and stages in life and everyone handles it the best they can.
MR: My favorite question when I get an opportunity to meet people that we bump into who are fans and have watched the show for years — be it out here at the pumpkin festival or going through the airport or on an airplane or something — is after they get to know me after a few minutes of visiting, I’ll say, “So, what? Do I seem like the same guy on TV as I do in real life?” And without fail, 100% of the time, they say, “Absolutely, exactly the same as you are on TV.”
I always chuckle at that and say “good!” — because you always want to make sure that you are portraying the real you.
My second favorite question is, “So who do you pull for, Amy or me, on all the projects?”
CGM: I think that honesty and relatability is what has bonded the viewers to your family — that you’re not perfect and you’re not afraid to show it, and at the end of the day you stick together come what may. Where our readers are concerned, you may never get to be done making this show …
MR: We’re humbled by that — and we’re kind of challenged by it, because there has been a longevity to our storytelling. It’s kind of been the ultimate case study of a family — even putting the little people factor aside — it’s been a case study of a family transition and evolution through a rather long period of years. So we’re very proud that TLC and our production people have been able to tell our story and keep it honest and let us share our lives with the world.
AR: One of the things that I always kid about when people come up and say, “Oh, I love your show and I love you and Matt and I’ve seen your kids grow up and everything ….” is I often reciprocate with, “But it’s my pleasure to see who is watching me.” Because it’s also nice to see all the nice people who are watching your show. It kind of puts a different perspective on what you do and what you’re doing with TV, how they relate to the show and their thoughts and how much it means to them. It keeps me humble.
MR: Definitely. I think the biggest challenge in the process of doing the show has been not being able to reach out and touch back all the people that have touched us via their comments and their sentiments and what have you. The mathematics just don’t work out; we just can’t get back on a one-on-one basis.
So the best we can do is share our story via the television. But we certainly wish and hope that in our lifetime, we’ll be able to thank everybody, one way or another, that has touched our lives.
A new season of Little People, Big World premieres Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 9pm ET/PT.
Photo credit: TLC/Dean Hackman