‘The Brady Bunch’: Jan Actress Eve Plumb Remembers ‘Cattle Call’ Audition in ‘Exposed’ Documentary

by Josh Lanier

When Sherwood Schwartz conceived of The Brady Bunch, it was mostly just a vague idea of a blended family.

He told The Television Academy Foundation in 1997 that he had read a blurb in the Los Angeles Times that sparked his imagination.

“It said that that year, I believe it was 1965, 30 percent of all marriages also included not just a couple but a child from either one or both parents,” he said. “Well, 30 percent is a tremendous percentage. It’s not just a mother father and two kids like Leave It to Beaver. This is a different situation developing it’s a huge sociological change in this country.

“What it meant to me as a writer-producer is stories now you have a wealth of new stories it’s not just one kid jealous of the other kid,” he continued. “… There’s a good box open because all new kinds of stories come out of that box.”

It was a rich premise, but that was all he had. But Paramount got behind the project as Shwartz refined the idea. He’d just need to cast the children first, but there was a problem.

“I wanted the instant recognition of blonde-haired mother, blonde girls — dark-haired father, dark-haired boys,” he said. “But I didn’t know if that was going to be true. It could be a blonde father. Then I would need three blonde boys and vice versa. So, I didn’t have to cast six kids. I had to cast 12 kids because I had to start that casting process before I got to the mother and father.”

Casting The Brady Bunch wasn’t going to be easy.

Thousands Turn Up for The Brady Bunch Auditions

When Schwartz put out the call looking for young actors, hundreds showed up to be seen. Among them was Eve Plumb, who played Jan Brady, and Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, they told The Brady Bunch Exposed documentary.

“I remember going on what was known as a cattle call (audition),” Plumb told the documentary. “I don’t know if they still have them. They essentially had a soundstage, and they had, you know, just reams and tons of children grouped into age groups and hair color groups.”

Barry Williams said they stood on the street as production assistants called them in by groups to meet with Sherwood Schwartz. By the end, Schwartz had chosen 12 children for the roles — dark and light-haired boys and girls for The Brady Bunch. Though, he had to interview 464 kids and their parents to get there.

Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) was the only member of The Brady Bunch who got the part right away. Schwartz instantly fell for her blonde pigtails the moment she walked in the room, he said.

Now, he had to find their parents.