‘Brady Bunch’ Star Susan Olsen Opened Up About Near-Death Experience

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)

Susan Olsen nearly died while filming an episode of The Brady Bunch in Hawaii. But she said a quick-thinking Florence Henderson saved her from drowning.

Most of The Brady Bunch cast found filming in Hawaii a dream come true. Olsen loved it because she felt “drawn to the water,” though she didn’t know how to swim. Despite this fact, the show filmed scenes on the open ocean.

During rehearsal for one of those scenes, the Cindy Brady actress said she nearly drowned after an accident on set knocked her into the ocean, she told a documentary crew. The cast was riding in an outrigger when another boat carrying the camera crew collided with them. The jolt of the crash knocked Olsen off of the boat. Florence Henderson watched in horror.

“All I could think of was I knew that Susan didn’t swim,” she recalled. Olsen grabbed onto the side of the boat, but the current was strong.

Henderson gripped the seat with her feet and fished the terrified child out of the drink, she told Variety.

“I’m hanging on just the point where I got where I couldn’t hang on anymore, then Florence grabbed me,” Olsen said. Henderson cradled the shaking girl in her arms until she stopped shaking.

“I didn’t have any family on that outrigger to calm me down,” Olsen said. “Except for Florence.”

Susan Olsen, Florence Henderson Speak on Special Bond

The mother and daughter on The Brady Bunch acted as such when the cameras stopped rolling, they said. Susan Olsen became close friends with Henderson’s youngest daughter, Lizzie. They had sleepovers at Henderson’s home. She threw joint birthday parties for her TV daughter and her real son Robert sometimes, too.

“It was interesting because I’d see her without the false eyelashes and all that,” Olsen told Variety.

Looking back, Olsen said Henderson was such an impressive woman. She raised two families — her real one and her TV one — and held down a very busy career.

“My first husband and I spent time with her sons, and he told me, ‘Her kids are terrific,’” Olsen said. “That’s how you know how good a mom she was. Two families and a career, and her kids still turned out terrific.”

Henderson had special relationships with all of The Brady Bunch children. Christopher Knight also considered Carol Brady a second mother to him. He would even bring home girls to meet his “mom” because her opinion mattered that much to him.

“She was just a wonderful kinda warm, and stern, mothering figure,” he remembered. “And to me, she was just someone I never wanted to disappoint. I just had such high esteem for her, and I think for everyone, that’s what we all reacted to. She just the kind of mom that you want.”