‘The Brady Bunch’: Why Florence Henderson Had To Tell a Director to ‘Back Off’ During a Love Scene With Robert Reed
Florence Henderson and Robert Reed played newlyweds Carol and Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch for five seasons. Making its debut in 1969, the series depicted marriage with a blended family of six kids. While Reed often complained to producers about the unrealistic scripts on the show, he and Henderson maintained a solid working relationship.
In her 2011 memoir, Henderson noted some tension she needed to address during certain scenes with her onscreen husband.
Florence Henderson called Robert Reed a ‘very complex man’
Henderson recalled getting to know Reed when they first started working together on The Brady Bunch.
“For those first scenes together in the pilot, Robert Reed proved himself immediately to be both a terrific actor and a very complex man,” she wrote in her book, Life Is Not a Stage. “Most of the time, Bob was a delightful curmudgeon on the set. He was extremely well educated and cultured. … On top of that, he was a classical pianist.”
Reed wasn’t shy about venting his distaste for the show’s storylines, which caused “conflicts and issues” throughout the show’s five-season run.
“Behind most of it was his attitude,” Henderson explained. “He wanted the show to be Shakespeare, more worthy of his training and skill. ‘Bob, it’s a sitcom,’ I’d have to remind him whenever the matter reared its head, which it did regularly.”
Robert Reed was ‘nervous’ in love scenes on ‘The Brady Bunch’
Though The Brady Bunch cast eventually discovered that Reed was gay, he kept his sexual orientation a secret until his death in 1992. The actor feared the information would negatively impact his career and reputation.
Henderson sensed early on that Reed was holding something back, commenting, “Every time we’d do a romantic scene, the same nervousness would come up.”
Director John Rich also picked up on something amiss during these scenes, and voiced his displeasure.
“We had been doing a love scene that had gone fine in rehearsal but wasn’t working to John’s liking the way Bob was doing,” Henderson recalled of the director’s harsh admonishment to Reed. “I felt I had to step in and do something.”
Henderson took Rich aside and told him in confidence of what she felt was causing the disconnect between her and Reed.
“‘John, just back off,'” she 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.”
‘The Brady Bunch’ star helped Robert Reed feel more ‘comfortable’
When Henderson went back to the set and resumed the scene with Reed, she did her best to put him at ease.
“I don’t remember specifically what I said to Bob, but I took extra care with him to make sure he felt comfortable,” Henderson wrote. “In that moment, I treid to love him as hard as I could and make him feel great. I wanted him to feel romantic and sexy as all get out.”
The Brady Bunch alum hoped that Reed could sense her acceptance of him, which would translate in their scenes together.
“If he knew I was comfortable about him and his sexuality, he didn’t have to be afraid of playing that role,” Henderson remarked. “I don’t think the crew caught on to this in the beginning like I had, but most did as the show went on.”