Q: What was it like to be back on the Paramount lot in Hollywood and on a sound stage where the Brady house set was re-created?
Barry Williams It’s a real trip to see the whole sound stage and the house rebuilt. I walk in here and it’s just a flood of memories. I spent my whole childhood here, my teen years. I remember having meetings with the whole family on the couch.
Q: What do you remember about your audition for “The Brady Bunch” series?
BW: Since I’d been an actor a long time before “The Brady Bunch,” this was just another casting call. It was a huge call -- there were 1,100 people during the course of the entire audition and Sherwood Schwartz, our creator, saw over 800 people himself. So, it was very exciting when we became a cast. I was particularly excited because in real life I was the youngest boy in a family with two older brothers, and then I was cast to be the eldest of two boys AND three girls as well. So, I thought I’d learn a trick or two about how to boss people around. It was a nice change of pace for me.
Q: What do you remember about the first day on the set of the series?
BW: I remember the first time I saw Maureen McCormick and thought, “Hmmm …there’s a babe. All right!” I knew I was going to have to be patient because she was only 12. Fortunately, our show lasted a long five years and patience paid off.
Q: Why make a movie about the making of “The Brady Bunch?”
BW: What I wanted to do was to make a television movie based on my book, “Growing Up Brady,” that focused almost exclusively on the five years of the original run of our show. The hook is that we’re talking about the real people, instead of the characters. Everything that could be done “Brady-wise” had been done with the characters. In the movie we re-create little snips of scenes from the series. When the director calls “cut,” you watch “Greg” become Barry Williams, “Jan” become Eve Plumb. It’s about the same things that seem to be fascinating or a source of curiosity for audiences, at least in my experience over the years. As I travel and do shows or I’m interviewed, there always seems to be the same focus to the questions. These are the things I wanted to bring to the screen and explain from the inside out.
Q: So how realistic is this television movie?
BW: True to the essence, true to the spirit.
Q: What happened when the original cast members worked together?
BW: It’s important to understand that none of us are really related. So the things that go on in “Growing Up Brady” are a little different than the things that went on in “The Brady Bunch.” We all had boyfriend/girlfriend kinds of relationships. We were the people we knew, liked and trusted. We were cloistered inside a soundstage for all those years and our social lives outside the set suffered. Thanks to Sherwood Schwartz, who cast very attractive people, it seemed natural that some of our relationships would extend beyond the set. Those relationships we bring to life, in their own innocence.
You see Michael (Lookinland – “Bobby Brady”) and Susan (Olsen – “Cindy Brady”) making out in the doghouse, for instance. On the other hand, I had more grown up relationships because I was a little bit older. You see dates I had with Maureen in the back of limos or swimming at my family’s house and my date with Florence Henderson.
In addition, you see what was going on behind the scenes with Robert Reed and our producers and the studio executives, which was with battle lines drawn.
Q: What were the problems Robert Reed had working on the series?
BW: Robert really liked our cast. I think we were one of the most consistent and positive things in his life, and that was great for all of us. He was generous: he gave us gifts; took us on trips; invited us to his home in Pasadena for things like the Rose Bowl. But, he was also a very serious actor. He was trained at Northwestern and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He wanted the show to be grounded and he didn’t want it to get away with just being joke-oriented without some kind of believability to it. He fought hard for that everyday, sometimes to excess. He was difficult for the producer, writers, studio, and sometimes the network, but his cause was noble. I think as a result of those difficulties, he gave our show another dimension that it might not have had in the hands of another actor. Unfortunately, it was a tremendous drain for him and for the people he had to fight against. And that is brought out, I think fairly, in this movie.
Q: Does the movie touch on the story line about your date with Florence Henderson?
BW: Touch on it? We reenact the entire date!
Q: So you actually went on a date with your TV mom?
BW: Of course -- and I still ask Florence to go out on dates, if she’ll have me (laughter). When I wrote the book, I was very specific about how the date was because I felt it was a very significant part of my growing up. Because of the various stories that have gone on around it and the number of questions I answer regarding it, I wanted to make sure that it was a part of the movie. The date was a very important part of my participation as a producer on this project because it could have been used to fuel yet more exploitation of the story. I definitely, definitely was on the make for my television Mom. But she, on the other hand was, I think, flattered by the attention and great innocence attached to it. I think she could see my struggles as a teenage kid, there was no doubt that she was married, had four children of her own, and the relationship -- despite what I wanted and where I wanted it to go -- was never going to go anywhere.
Q: So the movie covers both the good and bad that was going on?
BW: Well, it’s a very positive look at what happened. We’re not making it up -- our story doesn’t need to be exaggerated. We don’t have to bring out some deep, dark secrets; it’s pretty much what it was, and what went on here. Hopefully, because of the show’s continued popularity with new generations, there’ll be some interest.
Q: Why is the original series so popular?
BW: It would have to be the super groovy fashion statements that we made every week.
Q: The show has never been off the air in 30 years and every one of the 117 episodes is estimated to have aired more than 100,000 times. Why?
BW: The values and the things that have come to be associated with “Brady,” aren’t fads or things that come in and out of style like the clothes. It has to do with family, communication, working together, and being “all-for-one and one-for-all.” I think our show really is about those very fundamental things, including children and the stages they go through, such as glasses, braces, smoking, getting accused of cheating, that kind of thing.
Q: What was it like growing up “Brady?”
BW: It was a gas! I mean our playground was Paramount Studios, at that time there were series such as “Mannix,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Star Trek” and “The Odd Couple.” They were also shooting “The Godfather II” here, and a little later on, “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley,” so it was a very exciting playground. It was with those other casts that I spent my free time and playtime.
Q: What would you do?
BW: Totally make a pest of myself. I’d get in the way if I could and try to not get caught -- that was important. They were pretty tolerant of us because they realized we were kids and we needed a life, too. Even though business was going on, they’d put up with our occasional visits.
Q: What was the difficult side of growing up “Brady?”
BW: I don’t think people really understand how demanding the schedule is in shooting a one-camera series. We were here every day, all day. We were balancing a workload with a school load with a promotional load and public appearances. We were making cartoon shows, albums, and touring for those albums. Those shows had to be rehearsed and costumes had to be made, so it’s as if a child’s life doesn’t really leave too much for the child. It’s really all about work. It’s all about smiling even if you don’t feel like smiling. It’s looking healthy even if you have a cold. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, hitting your marks and saying your lines. It’s a pretty big load for a 9-10- or 11-year-old. Being pulled away from school -- being pulled away from your normal social environment -- those are the kind of elements that are the most difficult for kids. Which is why it was so important for us, as “Brady” cast members, to bond and have our little microcosm of social interaction.
Q: Is it possible to look back and come up with favorite episodes or experiences from those years?
BW: Certainly the TV film of the Hawaiian episodes was great fun because of where we were and what we were doing: surfing and being out in the warm, Hawaiian sunshine. The episode, “The Return of Johnny Bravo” was a favorite of mine. In fact, I took the title of my CD from that. I liked the episode where Marsha gets hit with the football. It was very exciting for us to have (L.A. Dodgers’) Don Drysdale and (N.Y. Jets’) Joe Namath here on our set, as well as Abbe Lane and Imogene Coca. To get to act with these people and have them be a part of our lives and television show was very exciting. As I understood it, in order to impress his children, (then Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger made an appearance -- not in our show, but on our set. That also was a big thrill, especially at that time in 1971.
Q: Not to mention Davy Jones of “The Monkees” in a much-loved episode.
BW: Well, I was a little jealous of Davy Jones. He kept putting the make on “Marsha.”
Q: You guys had a lot of fun didn’t you?
BW: We did have a lot of fun. It was a very good experience, unlike many of the experiences and horror stories you hear from former child stars of other series. I’m very grateful that in some ways life imitated art a little bit. We started out as a Hollywood convention and in many ways became a family. We are still in touch. I’ve spoken to everyone regarding this project. I am interested in where they are, what they’re doing, what’s going on and I consider them my friends and part of my second family.
--Press Information courtesy of NBC
& Paramount Studios © 2000