‘The Brady Bunch’: Here’s Why Susan Olsen Skipped the Show’s Christmas Movie

by Taylor Cunningham
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Susan Olsen didn’t appear in The Brady Bunch special A Very Brady Christmas. And no, it wasn’t because she died.

In 1988, The Brady Bunch cast reunited to make A Very Brady Christmas. But one character—Cindy Brady— was amiss. Instead of Susan Olsen reprising her role, Another World actress Jennifer Runyon took her place.

The re-cast sent Brady Bunch fans into a tizzy. The actors were as close as family, so people speculated that Susan Olsen was dead—because they couldn’t think of another reason she’d skip the movie. And that rumor ended up plaguing the actress for years to come.

Of course, that wasn’t true. To this day, Susan Olsen is alive and well. And the actress actually had two very good reasons for missing the Christmas special. For one, she had just married Steve Ventimiglia. And filming was to take place during her honeymoon. And two, the producers offered to pay her a significantly lower salary than the other actors.

When Susan Olsen Refused her Part on ‘The Brady Bunch’ Christmas Special, the Director Began to Hunt for a Look-alike

“It came down to money and bad politics,” the actress told The Age in 1993. “I was asking for way less than the two other girls wanted, but they still wouldn’t give it to me.”

Eve Plumb and Maureen McCormick pleaded with the creators to pay Olsen a fair amount, but they wouldn’t budge. Instead, they started a hunt for a “Susan Olsen look-alike.”

When Olsen heard the news, she was in Jamaica celebrating her new marriage. And she wasn’t completely heartbroken about the unfair pay because she didn’t want to cancel the trip.

“I really had my heart set on [the honeymoon],” she admitted.

The situation proved to be devastating for Susan Olsen’s acting career, though. It was 11 years before the actress landed a role outside of The Brady Bunch franchise.

While Olsen struggled to get callbacks, her new husband suggested she start a career as an artist. So she began working as a designer at a screen-printing shop. And she revealed that the store had a lot of visitors who walked in just to see her face.

Olsen doesn’t regret skipping A Very Brady Christmas. But she also didn’t burn a bridge when she refused the movie. The actress ended up returning to the cast to play Cindy in The Bradys spin-off show in 1990. And like her other Brady castmates, she had a cameo in The Brady Bunch Movie, which is a spoof on the original series.

The Brady Bunch was like a second family,” Olsen shared. “There was a lot of love from all around.”

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