In the “Brady Bunch Exposed” documentary, cast members of the hit television show recall learning of their close friend and surrogate head-of-household Robert Reed’s passing.
Reed played the role of Mike Brady on the show. As the family’s patriarch, Reed helped manage the intricacies of raising children from another marriage. The drama that ensued captivated the show’s audience for over five seasons. The role also landed Reed on TV Guide’s top Television Dads of All Time, coming in at number 14.
After the show was canceled in 1990, Reed tested positive for HIV. His health began to quickly deteriorate thereafter. According to a report by The New York Times, Reed only told his daughter Anne Haney about his health. He also left his castmates in the dark about his HIV diagnosis. His doctors later said that HIV played “a significant role” in his declining health, according to the Los Angeles Times.
During the documentary, Florence Henderson, who played Reed’s wife Carol Brady on ‘The Brady Bunch’, said she always respected Reed’s requests for privacy. However, maintaining her relationship with Reed became difficult as his health declined.
“We would make a date to call, and I would call him and he would tell me: ‘no, I don’t feel up for it today,” Henderson recalled.
Reed checked into a local hospital on May 1, 1992. He told his television family about his illness once he was in the hospital, according to the documentary. Reed passed away 11 days later.
“As far as I knew, I had been lied to,” Henderson said. “And then I gulped and he asked him for another favor. He asked me to call and tell all of the other cast members. And, so I did.”
The Brady Bunch Hits Some Hard Roads
Even though the Brady family was a well-to-do family on-screen, there was some tension simmering off-screen as well.
Henderson described Reed as “unhappy” with “anger and frustration” over his role as Mike Brady. Reed was a trained Shakespearean actor and often told his co-stars that the role of Mike was beneath him. According to the documentary, Henderson says the frustration may have mounted because of Reed’s “double life.”
“I never challenged him,” says Henderson. “I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering.”
While homosexuality was never explicitly covered on The Brady Bunch, some castmates say Reed’s repressed sexuality caused him great pain during his lifetime.
Barry Williams, who played Reed’s son Greg, said the two were close off camera. Still, the topic never came up in conversation.
“Robert didn’t want to go there,” says Williams. “I don’t think he talked about it with anyone. I just don’t think it was a discussion. Period.”