“The Brady Bunch” star Robert Reed was a classically trained Shakespearean actor. But after he wound up on “The Brady Bunch,” Reed didn’t approach the hit TV show as a new adventure. Instead, he simmered about his wasted potential and the show’s clumsy scripts.
“He had come from a rather wonderful series called ‘The Defenders,’” director John Rich said in the documentary “The Brady Bunch Exposed.” “And he was a young attorney [on that series]. And they had done serious work. I think he was looking for that. And he was wrong in taking the role [of Mike Brady].”
Reed’s co-stars agreed. They knew he was unhappy because of how he acted around the set.
“Bob was not a happy man on that set,” Alice actress Ann B. Davis said. “Because for one thing, he didn’t want to do the pilot. It was a contractual thing, he had to do the pilot. And I think he was disappointed that [it] sold. I mean, he had quite a classical training background. And I don’t really think that working on a children’s show was his idea of where he wanted to go with his career. And so there was that tension right from the start.”
Watch Rich and Davis’s comments here:
‘The Brady Bunch’ Star Was Often Drunk on Set
Before he appeared on “The Brady Bunch,” Reed had acted on Broadway, in movies and, as Rich noted, in other TV shows. So one might think that Reed would have learned to roll with the punches. However, on “The Brady Bunch,” Reed developed a reputation for being quite a primadonna about minor plot details.
He also reportedly spent his lunch breaks drinking and returned to the set drunk. Fortunately, the child actors had left the set by that point and so were spared Reed’s drunken outbursts.
But Reed’s difficult behavior on set resulted in his absence from key episodes, and even from the series finale in 1974. That was apparently caused by his disputes with writers about material in the scripts.
Reed Died of Colon Cancer
The “Brady Bunch” star died of colon cancer when he was just 59. He passed away at California’s Huntington Memorial Hospital, per the Associated Press.
“A few weeks ago, he asked me to call all the kids to tell them it didn’t look good for him,” Reed’s co-star Florence Henderson told the AP at the time. “We were all devastated.”
She added, “We cried. We are a family, and we have lost our father.”
But even the kids knew that Reed was uncomfortable in the role of Mike Brady. Greg Brady actor Barry Williams wrote in his book “Growing Up Brady” that Reed considered sitcoms, and “The Brady Bunch” in particular, too low-brow for him. Indeed, Reed seemed to acknowledge as much himself in a comment recalling his protests about the scripts.
“We fought over the scripts,” Reed said in a 1983 interview. “Always over the scripts. The producer, Sherwood Schwartz, had done `Gilligan’s Island’… Just gag lines. That would have been what ‘The Brady Bunch’ would have been if I hadn’t protested.”