‘The Brady Bunch’: Florence Henderson Described Robert Reed as ‘Unhappy’ with ‘Anger and Frustration’

by Atlanta Northcutt
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“The Brady Bunch” may be the perfect TV family, but behind the scenes of the show, a certain actor is described as being plagued with a dark and painful secret.

The late actor Robert Reed plays the role of Mike Brady, the father and husband in the famous TV series. Although he captured the happy role seamlessly while cameras were rolling, co-stars describe the actor as being a completely different person off-screen.

Robert Reed Struggles With a Painful Secret

Reed’s bumpy personal life led to an equally hard death in 1992. Although he died from cancer, his death certificate states he received a diagnosis of being infected with HIV. He struggled with his sexuality and waited until his deathbed to openly admit to being gay.

Florence Henderson played Carol Brady, Reed’s wife on the hit TV show. She and her co-stars open up about their experiences with Reed off-camera.

“Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband,” says Henderson. “He was an unhappy person … I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.”

Reed’s sexuality was never openly talked about. Although the subject wasn’t discussed, Reed’s struggle with his sexual orientation was an underlying part of the actor’s unhappiness.

“I never challenged him,” says Henderson. “I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering.”

Barry Williams plays the role of the eldest Brady son, Greg. Reed and Williams were friends for decades, but Barry explains how the two men never touched on the subject.

“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.”

Behind the Scenes of “The Brady Bunch”

“The Brady Bunch” first aired in 1968. Homosexuality wasn’t a subject that was often addressed on television during that time. In fact, the network and castmates believe that the news would destroy the reputation of the wholesome, happy show.

“It probably would have caused the demise of the show,” says Williams. “I think it would have hurt his career tremendously.”

“I don’t think The Brady Bunch could have existed at that time with the public knowing that Robert Reed was gay,” adds Henderson.

Although the show was and continues to be a huge success, Reed wasn’t proud of it. “The Brady Bunch” found international fame during it’s six years of filming, resulting in TV specials and movies.

Reed originally accepted the job for the money, even though he didn’t believe it would go far. To his shock, the program became one of the most popular ABC shows on Friday night.

Before moving to Hollywood the actor began his career by studying Shakespeare in England. The simple humor and idealized plot of the TV show made him unhappy. He saw “The Brady Bunch” as an unrealistic take on family comedy, and he preferred a more serious role. This led to arguments and disagreements between the actor and the creator of the show Sherwood Schwartz.

“He wound up on a show that he didn’t want to do in the first place, and it became more and more difficult for him,” says Schwartz. He explains how “television, in general, was beneath him. And situation comedy was beneath television, in his opinion.”

However, Schwartz says, “He was a good actor. So whatever he chose to do after arguing and fussing and so forth, he would do well.”

Even Barry Williams, who viewed Reed as a role model and mentor, could see the actor’s disdain of being on the show.

“He felt in some ways that the show was beneath his abilities,” says Williams.

Reed Finds a Real Family

Although Reed didn’t enjoy being on the program, he never left. Many believe it’s due to the attachment he grew towards his TV family.

“They became a family,” says Schwartz of the castmates. “They became very attached to each other. Even Bob Reed, who was a personal pain to me, loved the kids and they loved him.”

Christopher Knight, who played the middle brother Peter, explains how Reed “fell in love with us as a surrogate father.”

Finding Peace With the Support of “The Brady Bunch”

Before his death, Reed found contentment in his career while teaching Shakespeare at UCLA.

“It was the happiest he ever was,” says Henderson. “He just loved it.”

His final TV performance came in 1990 while he was sick with cancer. At the age of 59, Reed passed away from the disease.

“He was very brave, he was very courageous,” says Henderson. “And he asked me if I would call all the kids and tell them. And it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.”

“He faced his death with such courage and dignity. We should all be able to do that,” she adds.

After his death, the secret plaguing Reed’s heart came to light. The cast of The Brady Bunch wasn’t surprised, and they now fondly and lovingly remember their TV father and husband.

“Bob remains to this day my shining example of how an adult should be with kids,” says Susan Olsen, who played the youngest daughter, Cindy. “There was this unconditional, fatherly love that he had for us that we were always aware of.”

“He was the picture of what I wanted to become as a person in his sort of strength,” says Knight.

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