Almost exactly 50 years after the network debut of the ubiquitous mixed-family sitcom that enjoyed both a lengthy network run and a startlingly extended life as a pop cultural staple. the six actors who played Mike and Carol Brady’s children — Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen — reunited on stage at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills to offer a preview of their experience renovating the Brady family home for the upcoming HGTV series “A Very Brady Renovation,” debuting Sept. 9.
Last year, the home improvement network made headlines when it purchased the Studio City, CA, residence that served as the familiar exterior of the Brady residence during the series’ run from 1969 to 1974. But here’s the thing: because the series only actually shot on soundstages, before being recruited to makeover its interior into an exact replica of the set, the actors’ personal experience with the physical house was little to none.
“I didn’t learn where this house was until 1996,” admitted Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady, during the TCA session. “One of the most interesting aspects of working on this project was learning just how connected the audience was to this house, but we had no recollection of it. It was placed as an establishing shot into the show, and I didn’t know where it was and nobody worked there. And I don’t think anyone else during the period the show was being filmed knew where this house was. So there was a disconnect that I didn’t even know existed.”
Barry Williams, who played the eldest Brady offspring Greg, had actually visited the residence several years ago — although his pilgrimage there was entirely unplanned.
“After our original show was canceled, I was invited by a mutual friend for a lunch in the [San Fernando] Valley,” Williams said. “I went into the house and we’re having lunch and they’re all looking at me and laughing. ‘Doesn’t this remind you of something?’ And I’m looking around going, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Well, don’t you know where you are?’ And I said no. They said, ‘Well, you’re in the Brady house!’ And I said, ‘No.’ They had to walk me back outside to look at the photograph that we see on television for me to make the connection because the inside resembled it not at all.”
Even during the show’s run, Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady, had difficulty connecting the image of the relatively compact residence to the expansive set layout she knew.
“I was a very literal child and I looked at that house and thought to myself, ‘No way. That could never be the set. It’s a one-story house,'” Olsen said. “I asked the producers and
they said, ‘I’ll have to you know that if you walk into that house, it looks exactly like this set.’ And I must have spent years just like trying to wrap my brain around that. How could it be? And finally my mother said, ‘They were just trying to shut you up, honey.'”
Still, after 50 years the house remains one of the most sought-out selfie-friendly locales in the Los Angeles region, and even the cast developed a fondness for the home they never actually grew up in.
“I had such an affinity for this house,” confessed Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady. “It’s weird, but in some sort of a way I’m a fan of it just like America, I think, loves it. Like, I have that same love for this house. And when I was told that I could be a part of this and that they were going to really let us demolish things and then rebuild them, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh’ — the chance of a lifetime, really.”
Eve Plumb, who played middle Brady sister Jan, said that, given that the cast has reunited for all manner of reunion projects in the five decades since the series ended, she was particularly intrigued by HGTV’s offer.
“When they approached me about it what resonated with me the most was that it was a different take on Brady,” said Plumb. “They weren’t asking us to come back and play ‘Brady Bunch’ characters again. It was ‘Let’s explore what the house would be like if we could make it in real life, and please help us do that.” And I started watching all the HGTV shows, and I went ‘This is going to be good.'”