‘The Brady Bunch’: Here’s Why Cindy Was Played By a Different Actress in ‘A Very Brady Christmas’

by Amy Myers
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After The Brady Bunch series ended in 1974, fans missed their favorite television family and all of their easily-solved antics. Thankfully, the Brady’s returned in a couple of special reunions in the 80s, though many noticed that a few key cast members were missing. In A Very Brady Christmas, fans weren’t looking at the same Cindy that wore her hair in curls all those years ago. Instead of Susan Olsen on the set, it was Jennifer Runyon. And though she shared the same blonde hair as Olsen, she just wasn’t America’s sweetheart.

Of course, following the airing of the special, fans wondered why Olsen wasn’t a part of the reunion. Did she refuse the part, or did the director not offer her a chance? Surely, some theorized about and perhaps even hoped for a scandal, but in reality, the reason behind the new Cindy Brady was quite simple and devoid of drama.

At the time of the filming for the TV special, The Brady Bunch actress was on her honeymoon. While her co-stars were back under the hot lights on set, Olsen was busy enjoying the hot sun on a Jamaican beach with her new husband, Steve Ventimiglia. Unfortunately, much like the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Olsen’s marriage to Ventimiglia didn’t last very long, and they divorced just two years later in 1990.

‘A Very Brady Christmas’ Still Ends Like Any ‘The Brady Bunch’ Episode

Meanwhile, Olsen’s replacement, Runyon, was making a name for herself in both sitcoms and movies. Besides her role in The Brady Bunch‘s reunion, she also played Gwendolyn in Charles in Charge and one of Bill Murray’s students in Ghostbusters.

In A Very Brady Christmas, she portrayed a frustrated Cindy who at the time was an undergraduate in college. Despite her growing independence, the family still treats her like the baby, and she struggles to make her voice heard. Since her storyline was much less dramatic than others, it wasn’t quite so jarring to fans that there was a different actress on set. In fact, with all of the original characters’ spouses now in the mix, the new cast member almost didn’t seem out of place and the attention on the Brady family members further made up for the change.

Of course, it wouldn’t truly be a Brady Bunch special if it didn’t have a happy ending. Carol and Mike once again rush to help their children and spouses resolve their issues, but one after another thing goes wrong. After all of the Brady’s solve their separate obstacles, including former housekeeper, Alice, they gather around the dinner table for one final meal. The reunion ended with the Brady’s singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” ensuring all was right within America’s favorite family.

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