“The Brady Bunch” star Florence Henderson will be remembered by generations of TV audiences as Carol Brady, the matriarch of the “Brady Bunch” clan. But as an actress, she had a particular way she’d like to be known.
Henderson, who died in 2016, wanted to be recognized for her humanity. In a Television Academy Foundation interview in 1999, the actress was asked how she wanted to be remembered.
“Probably as someone who survived for a long time in a very tough business and, hopefully, managed to retain a sense of humanity,” she answered.
Henderson Was So Busy She Almost Missed Out on ‘The Brady Bunch’
“The Brady Bunch” launched in 1969. But before it did, back in the day, Henderson was in Los Angeles, preparing to fly to Houston, Texas to appear at the Shamrock Hotel, a supper club there.
“[It] was a big place with a separate club where performers, you know, that was one of the big stops you made,” she explained in the interview. “And my agent called and said, ‘They’re doing this new series, and they want you to come down to Paramount and read for it.’”
But Henderson didn’t want to. She pointed out that she lived in New York, and she had a plane to catch. Nonetheless, her agent insisted she just go down there and meet the people. They promise they’ll get you on the plane, he said.
So Henderson went down to Paramount Studios and met the creators of “The Brady Bunch.” They asked her to learn a scene and come back later to do a screen test. Fine, she said, as long as I make my plane. Once again, they promised she’d make it to Houston. So she learned the scene and came back to do the screen test.
“I come back, and we’re on the ‘Star Trek’ set,” she recalled. “And they make me up in the ‘Star Trek’ dressing room. William Shatner was in there. Not overly friendly, I might add. Which I have razzed him about many times over the years.”
She did the screen test with a different actor than Robert Reed, who would ultimately play her husband on “The Brady Bunch.” And then she hopped her flight to Texas and thought nothing more of it.
They Shot the First Six Episodes of the Show Without Henderson
The next day, she got a call saying the “Brady Bunch” people wanted her to fly straight back to Los Angeles to do the pilot. So Henderson went to the man who ran the supper club in Houston and told him if the show became a hit, she’d come back and perform at the same rate they were paying her then. They let her out of her engagement, and she flew back to Los Angeles for the pilot.
There was just one problem: by the time the show got picked up, Henderson was shooting a movie in Norway. And it was taking forever.
“They’re screaming for me to leave the movie, and it was really a chaotic time,” Henderson said. “And I had to fly back, go right to L.A. They had already shot around me for six episodes. So I had to catch up. I was meeting myself coming and going, you know, for days, until I caught up.”
But catch up she did. Then she settled into the role of Carol Brady, who she would go on to play for five years. And the rest, as they say, is television history.