‘The Brady Bunch’: Florence Henderson Helped Robert Reed Keep His Big Secret of Being Gay By Rehearsing Love Scenes
There are plenty of actors who feel totally comfortable expressing their sexuality in public. But back in the late 1960s when The Brady Bunch premiered, that wasn’t the case. The show’s family patriarch Mike Brady (Robert Reed) was a gay man, but most people didn’t realize it until after his death.
The one exception was his co-star wife Carol Brady (Florence Henderson). She showed compassion by rehearsing uncomfortable love scenes and standing up to clueless directors, all in the name of helping her coworker. It wasn’t until later that everyone discovered how she made The Brady Bunch set a more tolerant place.
‘The Brady Bunch’ got more popular after it was canceled
The Brady Bunch didn’t top the ratings during the five seasons it was on ABC between 1969 and 1974. However, it remains one of the most beloved sitcoms ever made. Fans love the retro appeal and relatable storylines.
The series followed Mike and Carol Brady, who get married and create a blended family of three boys and three girls. The family lives in their groovy Los Angeles house with their housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis). While the show avoided controversial themes, they did touch on typical family concerns including sibling rivalry, teen angst, and adjusting to change.
It’s considered one of the most iconic American shows ever made.
Florence Henderson knew her co-star Robert Reed was gay
Reed kept his private life, especially his sexual orientation, a secret from everyone. But Henderson knew the truth and also noticed that doing love scenes with her was sometimes uncomfortable for him.
According to IMDb, Henderson used to rehearse kissing and affection scenes with Reed to make their interactions appear more natural. She didn’t tell everyone why she was doing it, instead choosing to respect his privacy and desire for secrecy.
“Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband,” Henderson told ABC News in 2000. “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.”
She continued: “I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering. I don’t think The Brady Bunch could have existed at that time with the public knowing that Robert Reed was gay. I just don’t think they would have bought it.”
Henderson once stood up to a director who was harsh with Reed
Though some people on set knew Reed’s secret, others were totally clueless and impatient. Henderson once recalled a time she had to step in and defend her co-star.
“We had been doing a love scene that had gone fine in rehearsal but wasn’t working to [director John Rich’s] liking the way Bob was doing,” the Brady Bunch star said. When Rich came down hard on Reed, she fought back.
“I felt I had to step in and do something,” she said. “John, just back off,’” she supposedly told Rich. “‘Don’t say anything or make a big deal about this, but Bob’s gay. He’s nervous about this scene.’ I told him I knew how to handle it.”
Though he never revealed his true self to the public, at least he had one advocate as part of The Brady Bunch cast who was willing to speak up on his behalf.