‘The Brady Bunch’ Star Ann B. Davis Almost Wasn’t in the Series: Here’s Why

by Josh Lanier

The center square of The Brady Bunch was almost played by another actress. That’s because Ann B. Davis was cast at the last minute after a hasty rewrite of the pilot script.

Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of The Brady Bunch, explained to the Television Academy Foundation that casting for the show was a mess.

Originally, Sherwood had already hired Joyce Bulifant for the role of Carol Brady. But Paramount executives wanted him to audition Florence Henderson, a beloved Broadway actress at the time.

Robert Reed already had the part of Mike Brady. Paramount basically forced him onto the project because he was under contract with the studio. The two pilots that they believed would take off didn’t, and executives were left having to pay him — work or no, Schwartz said.

Schwartz met with Henderson and had her screen test with Reed. They were great together on camera, but there was a problem. A big one for a comedy. Bulifant was funny. She could deliver a joke, and was going to be the center of the “kitchen comedy,” Schwartz said. Henderson was less adept at delivering jokes. This kitchen comedy was becoming a catastrophe.

So, Schwartz had to make another major change to the script to save The Brady Bunch. He needed to add back some comedy into his comedy script. In the original pilot, the role of Alice the maid was a mean taskmaster. Schwartz even told the original actress to use a foreign accent to make it seem more menacing. But now, she had to go for someone funny.

Ann B. Davis Gets a Call From ‘The Brady Bunch’

Ann B. Davis was a two-time Emmy Award-winner from The Bob Cummings Show, The Brady Bunch Exposed documentary said. But as The Brady Bunch was imploding in Los Angeles, Davis was in Seattle performing stand-up comedy.

“We’re only three or four days away from potential production, and (Davis is) in Seattle doing stand-up,” he recalled. She had weeks left on her stand-up booking, and Paramount would have to buy her out if they wanted her to wear the apron, Schwartz said.

Schwartz went to Paramount executives and asked for the money to get Davis. They reluctantly agreed.

“They said ‘You’re on, Ann,'” she recalls of getting the call. “We’re gonna buy you out of you last week in the nightclub. We’d come down and shoot the pilot. So, I didn’t know all that was going on. I just knew that it happened very fast and sounded pretty good to me.”

With the last piece of the cast in place, Schwartz was finally ready to shoot the pilot. Though, it had taken him three years to get to this point after going through hundreds of auditions and dozens of rewrites to the script.