‘The Brady Bunch’: Was Susan Olsen’s Lisp as Cindy Real?

It has been more than 50 years since The Brady Bunch first premiered on television. While it has been off the air since 1974 and only ran for five seasons, it has left an indelible mark on the entertainment world and continues to be a source of allusions, references, and influence.

The show introduced one of America’s first blended families to the television airwaves. Despite this somewhat envelope-pushing premise, the wholesome joy of the family and their heartwarming love for one another had fans wishing they could be part of the Brady home.

Fans definitely had their favorites among the cast members, but each character was beloved in their own way — even Tiger, the family’s dog

As fans look back on this classic show with nostalgic longing, they might want to know a little more about how that iconic cast was chosen. The kids, in particular, were carefully selected for their wholesome appeal, and that included little Cindy’s lisp. Was it real? 

‘The Brady Bunch’ premiered in 1969

The cast of 'The Brady Bunch'
The cast of ‘The Brady Bunch’ | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The show starts with the premise that architect Mike Brady, who has three sons from a former marriage, and homemaker Carol, who has three daughters of her own, met and fell in love. Now the family of eight has to figure out how to make their new lives work, but luckily they have wholesome lessons and unending moral fiber to keep them together.

Much of the conceit of the show revolves around the gender conflicts of a house full of women and girls combining with a house full of men and boys. While some of the stereotyped situations wouldn’t fly with modern audiences, they provided some comforting familiarity to viewers who were dealing with shifts in societal gender norms and a changing workforce at the time of its 1969 premiere. 

The show ran for a total of five seasons before signing off for good in 1974. Since then, it has been endlessly referenced as a pop culture touchstone and even sparked a 1990s reboot film that made a tongue-in-cheek homage to the original’s sticky sweet image of family togetherness and old-fashioned ideals. 

The cast for ‘The Brady Bunch’ was carefully chosen

The key to making The Brady Bunch work was creating the image of a perfect family. The opening credits included a song that made some overtures about just what the cast could look like.

All the girls would have “hair of gold” just “like their mother,” and the youngest one would have to have curls. In addition to these physical attributes, the cast needed a variety of ages to represent the wide range of siblings that went from elementary students to teens. 

According to Mental Floss, keeping up a cohesive image of the family members was so important that more than one cast member had to have their hair dyed to create the perfect picture. Mike Lookinland was chosen to play Bobby, but his strawberry blonde hair wasn’t dark enough to fit the image of being the son of Robert Reed (who played Mike Brady).

Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, was already blonde, but she wasn’t quite blonde enough. She, too, had to undergo hair dye in order to achieve the perfect look. 

Susan Olsen really did have a lisp

Susan Olsen of 'The Brady Bunch'
Susan Olsen of ‘The Brady Bunch’ | CBS via Getty Images

Olsen may have had to change her hair color, but she did not have to alter her speech to imitate little Cindy’s iconic lisp. That feature was real, and Olsen worked hard to overcome the speech impediment throughout her life.

Olsen’s role as the youngest Brady followed her after she left the series, and she was often teased for portraying the sometimes-annoying character. Having a real-life lisp didn’t make the association with her prior character any easier to shake. 

Olsen continued to work with a speech therapist until she was 19. At that point, Olsen turned to surgery to help correct her speech.