When Elizabeth Olsen was prepping to play a heightened version of a 70s sitcom star in WandaVision, her main source of inspiration, she’s said, wasn’t The Brady Bunch or even The Brady Bunch Movie. It was A Very Brady Sequel, an outlandish, campy parody-homage from 1996.
That film didn’t perform at the box office and received generally worse reviews than The Brady Bunch Movie did the year prior, but for many fans, and seemingly Olsen, too, A Very Brady Sequel is the holy grail, that rare second film that manages to be even better than its predecessor.
Like The Godfather and The Godfather Part II before them, the merits of both 90s theatrical Brady films, and which is the superior, can be debated endlessly. The Brady Bunch Movie, directed by Betty Thomas, set the tone, surrounded the Bradys with 90s grunge, squashed Marcia’s nose with a football, and featured Jean Smart as a perpetually hungover neighbor. A Very Brady Sequel, directed by Arlene Sanford, cranked up the camp to give the world “Sure, Jan,” step-sibling incest, a psychedelic mushroom trip, and an actual trip to Hawaii.
Throughout both, the Bradys remain eternally stuck in their sugar-coated sitcom bubble, with plenty of callbacks to the original’s scripts and quirks, while the rest of the world moves on without them.
“Had they just tried to redo The Brady Bunch and put everyone in that period, it wouldn't have been nearly as funny,” Gary Cole, who played Mike Brady in the films, told VICE. “That's why everybody enjoyed it so much: We were the straight men and everyone else was regarding us as freaks.”
Progressive, subversive, and somehow still extremely comforting and optimistic, the Brady Bunch movies found a devoted fan base that spans generations and has only grown more powerful in the age of streaming and social media. (Horrifyingly, more time has now passed since the release of A Very Brady Sequel than existed between the end of the original show in 1974 and the films.)
“We really didn't know how it was all going to be perceived,” Christine Taylor, who played Marcia Brady, said. “It was like icing and sugar and sprinkles on the cake when people really loved the movies.”
Twenty-five years later, the cast and creatives behind A Very Brady Sequel reveal what it was like resurrecting America’s most-famous sitcom family (again) and creating an offbeat classic.
Finding the perfect Bradys... and Alice
The story of the sequel, of course, begins with the casting of the first film. The actors who would play the Bradys and Alice were cast for a three-picture deal at Paramount. Though they’re uncredited on The Brady Bunch Movie, writers Stan Zimmerman and James Berg, who had previously worked on The Golden Girls and Roseanne, were brought on to revamp The Brady Bunch Movie script just as casting was getting underway. They'd later return to work on A Very Brady Sequel.
Deborah Aquila, casting director: We saw every kid we could see. Oh my god, it was relentless and it was exhaustive. From a casting point of view, it was a challenge.
James Berg, writer: The budget and the belief in what the movie could be wasn’t that attractive to big names at the time.
Henriette Mantel (Alice): I had played Shelley Long's nanny on Good Advice, but Shelley hadn’t been cast yet for this. The day before the first audition, I served my friends dinner as Alice. That’s how much I wanted to get the role. I stayed in character, and my friend Michael Patrick King, who is the executive producer of Sex and the City, was there dressed like a Vietnam vet. Oh my God, it was crazy.
Stan Zimmerman, writer: We went through a lot of names for Alice, like Kathy Najimy.
Jennifer Elise Cox (Jan Brady): I was a ridiculous, crazy fan of The Brady Bunch. I was right out of college, and I’m a theater girl. So, I came dressed as Jan, and a friend of mine did my hair with the curls in the front, and I had a whole corduroy outfit. I remember going into the casting office, and there were a bunch of really cool Hollywood girls there. One of them was Leslie Bibb in cute jeans and a baby tee. I was like, oh, maybe I went too far.
Paul Sutera (Peter Brady): I was never really a method actor, but this was something where I was like, fuck it, we can have fun with this. I went down to Aardvark’s and got my polyester shirt and bell bottom pants and platforms, and I blew my hair out so it looked like Peter.
Mantel: I brought a laundry basket to my audition. I folded laundry, and I wore an apron. I was just like, I'm going to get this if it's the last thing I do.
Cox: I think that was kind of what you had to do to get the part, really commit to the Brady that you were playing. At the end of the audition, I started doing the “Keep On Movin’” dance out of nowhere, and they were totally into it. It was one of the best auditions of my life.
Christine Taylor had starred on Nickelodeon's Hey Dude and guested on shows like Saved by the Bell and Blossom. She was also a Brady Bunch fanatic and had already played Marcia in a stage production called The Real Live Brady Bunch in LA.
Christine Taylor (Marcia Brady): My friends and I were huge Brady fans in high school, and I’d heard I looked like Marcia all my life. When I called my agent about doing this stage play, their initial reaction was, “We didn't know you did theater.” And I said, “Well, I love theater, but I also just do a great Marcia Brady impression.” Then, when I was finishing up my run in the show, they said, “Did you know Paramount is trying to make a Brady Bunch movie?”
Aquila: When Christine Taylor walked in as Marcia Brady, I mean, come on. It’s a perfect match. There was no debate. She was Marcia.
Olivia Hack (Cindy Brady): They would do these mix and match sessions [pairing different potential Bradys with each other], and I vividly remember Christine Taylor walking in and all of us going, “Oh, shit.” Because she was such a dead ringer.
Taylor: I remember thinking, I’ve done the impression my whole life. I look like her. If I can't get this, then maybe I'm not in the right industry.
At the time, Gary Cole had mainly worked in TV and he’d never done a comedy role, outside of theater. Director Betty Thomas had worked with him on Midnight Caller and asked him to audition to play patriarch Mike Brady.
Gary Cole (Mike Brady): They wanted me to look like Mike Brady, but they provided nothing, except a wig that wasn’t fitted at all. I looked like a clown from Ringling Brothers. So, I went down to Melrose somewhere and bought a bad, loud polyester shirt. And I went in and read.
Aquila: Gary goes into the bathroom in my office to change. He closes the door. And I’m watching Betty’s reaction to Gary coming out.
Cole: Betty never laughs. She barely cracked a smile. She was looking at me as if I were some experiment that she was wondering whether the experiment was going to work.
Aquila: This is what I remember: Betty started laughing so hard that she rolled from the couch onto the floor. I swear this is what I remember, whether I made it up or not. When he walked out, he had the voice. He had the look. He had the wig. We lost our minds. He became Mike.
Cole: It was mimicry, basically. That's what I felt would make it funny. Obviously, I was helped by the polyester clothes and the hair. I noticed that [Robert Reed, who played Mike on TV] had a very specific rhythm. And when Mike finishes whatever he's saying, you realize he makes absolutely no sense at all—but everyone just nods their head.
Taylor: At the first table read,I remember thinking, specifically, what is Gary Cole going to do? Like, I don’t even think of him as a comedic actor. And he came in and was so subtle. He was in this different universe.
Already a legend from Cheers and Troop Beverly Hills, Shelley Long brought her star power and unique energy to set as Carol Brady. A rep for Long did not respond to requests for an interview for this article.
Sutera: I don’t really get starstruck, but I was just in awe. Shelley was an interesting person and an absolute sweetheart. Henriette and Shelley would butt heads though.
Hack: I think Shelley thought Henriette was her maid in real life. Betty had to pull her aside and be like, “She’s not actually your maid.”
Mantel: That’s true. God bless her. She liked to tell me what to do, but who cares? She’s something.
Cole: During the Sears scene in the first movie, Shelley and I found this rather phallic looking electronic device. It wasn’t any kind of sexual device, just some kind of 90s hardware, but it had a specific shape to it. She picked it up and said, “I think we can focus on this in the background.” So, we did. I don't know that anyone ever saw it.
Hack: During the second movie, Shelley would do these warm-up vocal exercises before every take that sounded like this: ca-caw, ca-caw, ca-caw! Before every take, even if she didn’t have a line. One day, she did them and somebody off-camera, a crew guy, did it back. She lost her shit.
Sutera: Some singers do honey and tea. Shelley makes bird sounds.
Recreating the look
The Brady Bunch Movie shot on the same stage at Paramount where the original series was filmed, while A Very Brady Sequel shot mostly on another stage at the studio. On both films, the filmmakers—which included Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd as producers—went to painstaking lengths to recreate the Brady house exactly as it appeared on the classic show.
Hack: Paramount sent us tapes of all the Brady Bunch episodes. I remember walking onto that set for the first time after watching it over and over again and being like, “Whoa, dude.” I literally got chills because it was such a trip.
Cole: It was a time warp in itself. And I’ve never been in a movie where so much of the time you’re in a scene literally with ten people. We were like a big blob moving around the set.
Mantel: I was always in the kitchen making noises with pots and pans. And the food that I had to prepare—it was real raw meat. By the end of shooting a scene three times, it was so gross.
Just as important as perfecting the set was making sure the cast’s wardrobe, hair, and makeup emulated that of the original Bradys.
Cole: I said the louder, the stupider, the better the clothes. Give me anything that doesn’t match. Give me colors that people will shudder from. The [polyester suits] weren’t great for heat, but they were fairly comfortable.
Cox: Christine and I were at the hairdresser every ten days to get our roots done. And they would give me those pink curlers that I wear in the movie to put in my hair between takes at all times.
Taylor: We had to paint bleach on the roots to make it look like it was growing out of our heads that color. By the end, my hair was shot. For the second movie, my one thing [I asked for] was, “I have to have a wig.” And it was an amazing wig. I mean, the bread and butter is the hair.
Cox: There's a famous dentist, he did Cameron Diaz's braces in Charlie’s Angels, and he said I was his first headgear. He was like, “You put me on the map.”
A cultural reset
As production wrapped on the first Brady film, no one really knew how audiences would respond. They had tried to strike a tone that felt fresh and funny to 90s audiences, but that also paid tribute to the beloved characters.
Cox: I personally thought it was going to be a cultural reset, but people in my life were like, “Eh, I don’t know. That’s not going anywhere.”
Berg: The studio really didn't know what the hell we were doing.
Hack: Jennifer had been in the production office and seen the contracts [for the actors playing the Brady kids]. I think we all got paid 75 grand, except for Bobby [played by Jesse Lee Soffer] who got paid more. Obviously, he had a better agent.
Sutera: It was like $50,000 for the first, $75,000 for the second.
Cole: I was actually scared because if this movie [isn't well received and] doesn’t work for me, I might as well take a ten-year break.
Taylor: They did these test screenings where they would hand out flyers on the street and one of my friends got the pass and asked if I wanted to go. I put on fake glasses and a baseball cap. It was the first time I got to see the movie with an audience. And that was when I knew, like, this really works.
Braving a sequel
When The Brady Bunch Movie was released in February 1995, it exceeded box office expectations and made more than $46 million. Thomas moved on to shoot Private Parts, and Arlene Sanford, who’d directed TV shows including The Torkelsons, was hired to direct A Very Brady Sequel with a $12 million budget. Production began in the fall of 1995.
Arlene Sanford, director: It was my first feature. Betty Thomas and I had both directed this HBO show called Dream On. I think that Paramount liked the job that she did on the first movie and they said, well, she's not going to do the next one. Who’s the person who's closest? And that was kind of me.
Berg: Conventional Hollywood wisdom would be to give something successful to an established male director [for the sequel]. But conventional Hollywood wisdom is also: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Sanford: [Then-chairman of Paramount] Sherry Lansing was very interested in hiring women. She was a big supporter of that. I was scared to death because it was my first movie. But I had a sense that if I spent many, many hours prepping that I could figure it out.
Hack: We started filming the sequel probably eight months after the first one came out. I remember my mom being like, “You know, you're probably going to get recast. You look different.” I was like, “Fuck!” And it's true. In the second one, my face has totally changed. I’m 12 years old. I'm at the peak of awkward adolescence. I remember them giving me this strap-down bra, those kinds of things.
Zimmerman: Jim [Berg] and I wrote a first draft of the sequel, and then we got our very first pilot picked up, so we couldn't continue on with it. They brought in [writers Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, who later wrote and directed Josie and the Pussycats] and then when we were done making the pilot, we went back and worked on the sequel again.
Berg: The vibe was different on the sequel. I would say we colored more in the lines with Arlene and had to push her to go out of the lines. But she's very smart. She knew what she was doing.
Cox: I think that Arlene just didn't put up with our bullshit. It was good because you get to the sequel and you start thinking your shit doesn't stink, you know?
Sutera: The first table read that we all did, we walked out and we were like, “Man, that kind of sucked.” We didn't think it was as funny as the first one.
Cole: I was certainly more comfortable because I knew that what we had done the first time around worked. So, when I put on the wig and the clothes again, I wasn't shuddering in the mirror in my trailer like I was the first time, going, “I’m not coming out of here because that’ll be the end of me!”
Hack: I went to Paul's place yesterday and we smoked a joint and watched the second movie. I don't really like it all that much. I feel like we're all overacting a little bit. But maybe that's why people like it.
“Oh boy, Roy’s not Roy!”
A Very Brady Sequel added Tim Matheson to the cast as Roy Martin (real name: Trevor Thomas), a con man pretending to be Carol's long-lost first husband in order to nab the Bradys’ living room horse statue, which was actually a rare artifact worth $20 million. According to internet lore and casting director Aquila, Jimmy Fallon also auditioned to play a small role as one of the lifeguards in the sequel's pool scene, but he didn't make the cut.
Tim Matheson (Roy/Trevor): I had just done a Chris Farley movie [Black Sheep] that was Paramount, so [producer] Kelliann Ladd suggested me for this, and they offered me the part.
Sanford: I feel like Tim was pretty much at the top of the list. Maybe Tom Cruise, but he probably was not available.
Aquila: Tim’s got that twinkle in his eyes. He’s in on the joke, and that is comedy gold.
Hack: Tim was especially lovely to us, and I think that's because he was a child actor and had been in the industry for so long. It’s not that Gary and Shelly weren't nice to us, but Shelley’s in her own orbit.
Matheson: I was the new kid in town. They were awfully gracious and sweet to me.
The diabolical rivalry of Jan and Marcia
Some of the best moments in the Brady movies come from Marcia and Jan’s chaotic sibling relationship. Taylor and Cox, the two biggest Brady fans in the cast, worked hard to mimic original actresses’ Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb’s unique mannerisms and ways of speaking.
Zimmerman: Christine and Jennifer were so spot on and so fucking hysterical that we really leaned in and wanted to write more for those two.
Cox: The Jan and Marcia stuff tested through the roof. Audiences loved it, so they added more in the sequel. I was like, shit. I'm an only child. I don't even know what it's like.
Taylor: I have these memories of feeling like, Marcia is the worst! I would always apologize to Jennifer.
Hack: Jennifer is just a fucking comedy genius.
Cox: On the show, it sounded like Eve and Maureen went to a dialect coach where they taught them Eastern Standard speech. Eve spoke beautifully, but it was whet instead of “wet.” And she almost had liquid u’s. I also have to give Melanie Hutsell credit because the way she did Jan on SNL, it’s amazing.
Taylor: The way Marcia says sküle was important to me. I slipped it in there and Arlene said, “We’re gonna do it again. You said ‘school’ a little weird.” Jennifer and I looked at each other, and I was like, “That’s the way she said it. I have to stand by that,” and Arlene’s like, “Okay, you’re the experts.” Sküle was such a Maureen McCormick-ism.
Cox: I remember Betty Thomas said to me, “Look at Eve’s walk. She has a weird walk.” I just kept studying the episodes and the way her hair swings back and forth.
Zimmerman: There’s nothing better than when actors spark the imagination of writers to write more for them. They were our muses.
“Something suddenly came up!”
Both films carried a PG-13 rating, but in the sequel, the Bradys are just exceedingly horny. Carol and Mike trade deadpan double entendres in bed. Jan invents a boyfriend. And when Roy shows up and makes Greg and Marcia inexplicably realize they’re actually “not brother and sister,” the teens desperately want to bang. Lustful gazing and, ultimately, a passionate makeout session between the step-siblings ensue.
Berg: We couldn’t be overtly sexual, but we landed on the tone. With the innuendo, the sillier it got and the dirtier it got, the more innocent it got somehow—and the funnier.
Sanford: I was amazed at how much the studio let through. Maybe some of it went over their heads.
Taylor: Christopher [Daniel Barnes, who played Greg] and I felt like brother and sister by the time we were shooting that stuff for the sequel. And even when we had to kiss, we were like, “This is so weird.” Not because of the Greg and Marcia of it, but the Christine and Christopher of it.
Cox: They had to push the envelope. People wanted to see the whole thing pushed to the limit.
Taylor: There was always this undercurrent when you watched the show and when you read Growing Up Brady where [original Greg actor Barry Williams] talked about dating [the original Marcia, Maureen McCormick]. There was stuff going on, even though it wasn't in the show itself.
Sanford: When we came up with the idea of using “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” for those moments, we thought, we’ll never be able to get it. There was a lot of music that surprised me that we could afford in our little low budget film.
Taylor: Even though those are attic scenes, we were shooting them in Hawaii. I did [the line “Yes, Greg?”] as low as I could go. We were making ourselves laugh with me trying to do it. But then I think they did a little post tweaking to it.
Sanford: It was always, “We can cut around the Greg and Marcia kiss if it didn’t play.” But I always thought that was the only logical conclusion to the story arc. If Paramount wasn't sure how far we could go with that storyline, once the test audiences went crazy there was never another word.
Cox: I did have questions about the coffee house scene. I was like, [the George Glass doll] looks like a sex toy. That was the only day where I was like, hey, I don't know if it's going to work.
Berg: I don't remember any pushback from the studio. They were much less timid at this point because the first one worked and people liked it. We probably drew the line at Robert Reed’s private life. [Ed. note: Reed was gay and kept his sexual orientation a secret until his death in 1992.]
Zimmerman: We wrote a scene that they wouldn’t let us shoot that was Mike coming out of a gay bar on Hollywood Boulevard.
Behind the scenes—while the cast maintains there were no real-life romances on set—there were plenty of appreciative glances and crushes between the actors. A large age gap existed between Barnes, Taylor, and Cox, who were all in their 20s, and the younger kids.
Cox: Christine and I used to be like, “Our dad is hot. Gary Cole is hot.” But we loved his wife, and it wasn’t like that.
Sutera: For me, as a 14 or 15 year old boy going through puberty? I thought Christine was hot on Hey Dude, and then I’m working with her, and she’s Marcia Brady looking all hot. And Jennifer had the best body of any girl I had seen at that time. Like, Jennifer had abs. I had a crush on those two, for sure.
Taylor: If there were crushes that the little ones had on any of the older ones, we certainly didn’t know about it.
Hack: I had a huge crush on Paul. He was three or four years older than me, so scandalous.
Cox: I thought Tim was just a hottie. I was like, he's the most handsome man I’ve ever seen and I have to jump on his lap? Okay. He was married at the time and I was married, but it was totally awkward.
Hack: Tim has these amazing blue eyes, and before any close-up, he had these magic eye drops that were some special formula that he would drop in his eyes to make them sparkle.
Sutera: I’d be like, “Tim, your eyes are piercing. Why do you need more?” He was like, “Well, it’s film, Paul.” They were like the White Walkers’ eyes from Game of Thrones.
Matheson: I was wearing contact lenses, and they irritated my eyes. I would use these special drops called Collyre Bleu that would take all of the redness out and leave them very white, indeed. They aren’t even sold in America.
“Oh my God, I’m tripping with the Bradys”
In one incredible scene of mayhem, Alice accidentally serves Roy spaghetti with magic mushrooms. As he spirals into a psilocybin-induced trip at the Brady dinner table, an animated sequence reminiscent of the 70s cartoon spinoff The Brady Kids takes over. The scene ends with Alice, who also ate the concoction, sleeping in the refrigerator.
Zimmerman: Arlene wanted to do animation, and it was just, how do you get to that in a realistic way? We probably talked about many different drugs and many different food items, and we pitched until Arlene was happy.
Matheson: I’m tripping with the Bradys! It was basically one of those scenes where you have a license to do anything you want to do. I would try and do something different on every take and see where it took me.
Matheson: After a couple of takes, I started barking like a dog. I remember just doing whatever would seem psychedelic that wasn’t too stupid.
Mantel: Don’t I walk into the refrigerator? That was fun. Tim was a riot.
Cox: That was, for sure, my favorite scene, but I thought it was going to get cut.
Sanford: One of the biggest reactions from the audience was when he goes, “Oh my God, I’m tripping with the Bradys.” I was shocked during the test screenings. People went crazy.
Cole: Maybe, fittingly, I didn’t remember the mushrooms, as if I did them or something.
Good time music
Both films required the actors playing the Brady kids to perform choreographed dance numbers to classic Brady Bunch songs. Other than a few solo lines recorded by Taylor and Barnes, however, they only had to lip sync to existing tracks.
Cox: They didn’t want me to sing. I can’t sing at all. I tried to get them to let me sing.
Taylor: Jennifer and I, we knew all the songs by heart. I loved doing the plane scene [with “Good Time Music”]. And the moment where the flight attendant is like, “Could you please sit down and shut up?” Because I would always say, “I understand that we're doing a Brady movie, but is no one else trying to stop us? We're just letting crazy people sing for a while?!”
Sutera: I’d been in show choir in school, and to get to do a crash course on 70s dance, I loved it. I mean, I look like an idiot when I look back at it now, but at the time, I felt like I was crushing it.
Mantel: I just kind of bopped along.
Cox: It was not a prerequisite that we could dance. There were a couple of us that were really good dancers, and there were a couple of us that were not good dancers. Christine and I were the good ones. Poor Olivia Hack is the most amazing actress, but we were in rehearsals for hours trying to get her to get the dances. It wasn’t fair. She was a baby.
Hack: They taught us that plane choreography the night before till like 2 a.m.! I remember a lot of things being a borderline shit show because we didn't have enough rehearsal time.
“Kids, we're going to Hawaii!”
In the climactic final 20 minutes of A Very Brady Sequel, Roy/Trevor kidnaps Carol and takes her to Hawaii, where he plans to sell the horse statue to the rich Dr. Whitehead. The rest of the Bradys hop on a plane and trail them, meaning all of the main cast got to spend about two weeks shooting in Oahu. The Whitehead mansion scenes, however, were shot in Malibu.
Cox: We were all such nerds. We were just going to Duke’s [a Waikiki restaurant popular with tourists] and hanging out.
Hack: One day, we were driving up this mountain where they shot Jurassic Park, and the transport guy driving us was stoned out of his mind. So, we pulled the car over and Gary started yelling at him because he was going to kill us.
Taylor: In the lobby scene, Gary runs by as himself [the man in the Hawaiian shirt who yells, “Justin, cool your jets!”]. He wasn’t working that day, and I remember Arlene saying, “Do you want to just do a weird Easter egg?” and he walked through.
Sanford: I wanted to have a voiceover in the background of the lobby scene say, “The hotel congratulates Steven and Larry on their upcoming wedding.” Because Hawaii was about to [consider allowing] gay marriage. That was a big conversation with the studio, and they [ultimately] said, “Maybe we don't want to do that quite yet.”
The sequel brought on a bevy of 90s icons in cameo roles to delight viewers, including David Spade as a hairdresser, Zsa Zsa Gabor as herself, and Richard Belzer as an LAPD detective. In the final scene, Barbara Eden, as her I Dream of Jeannie character, appears and reveals she’s Mike’s first wife.
Zimmerman: We had heard that Rosie O’Donnell was a big fan of the first movie, so we asked her to be in it. She said, “I’ll only do it if my friend Zsa Zsa Gabor can be in the scene.” We were like, “Done.”
Matheson: Rosie couldn’t have been more nice, and Zsa Zsa was Zsa Zsa.
Hack: Zsa Zsa showed up and demanded a Chanel suit, so they got her the Chanel suit.
Sutera: She asked if she could keep it, and they were like, “No. It's very pricey.” So, she goes back to her trailer, dumps perfume all over it, and walks back to wardrobe. It reeked so badly, they couldn’t return it, which was her intention.
Sanford: David Spade was doing a bunch of comedies at Paramount at the time. They said, “Can you find something for him?” And then Richard Belzer was on Homicide, which is why the camera is moving around kind of crazy in the shots that he's in. Probably nobody knows what I was doing there.
Cox: David Spade shot his scene in a mall, and I ran into him while he was hiding from people.
Cole: John Hillerman, who used to be on Magnum, P.I. is in that one scene [as Dr. Whitehead]. That snobbery just kind of oozes out of him, but he was a great guy.
Taylor: I loved I Dream of Jeannie, and Barbara Eden was so lovely. My god, for her to be in that outfit—I don't even know how old she was at the time, but she looked like a million bucks. [Ed. note: She was 64.]
Zimmerman: I remember the ending being really tough. I must have pages of all the different endings, coming up with something that played with other TV shows and how they were all in the genre of the time.
Berg: We’re ready to do an I Dream of Jeannie movie now.
RuPaul appears in both films as Ms. Cummings, the stylish high school guidance counselor who forms a special connection with Jan.
Zimmerman: We were reading actors like Jennifer Lewis, a lot of Black actors, and I happened to be in a gay bar and saw the early video for “Supermodel (You Better Work)” with RuPaul. I came in the next day and said, “You guys, track this down. I have this crazy idea,” not thinking they would ever allow us to put a drag queen in a major Hollywood movie. It became so subversive and it still holds up.
Cox: I was such a big fan. People didn’t know who Ru was, if you can believe that.
Sanford: The fact that we could do that, that the studio was okay with that—and a lot of the gay references. There’s a big gay following for the movies, for sure.
Zimmerman: We had to be in the closet when we were writing on The Golden Girls. We were some of the first writers to come out as gay, so then getting something like The Brady Bunch, it was like, oh my God. We just wanted—not to push a gay agenda—but we could talk about anything. I think that’s another reason why we kind of blossomed in that environment because, for the first time, we were just who we were.
Berg: So much of gay humor is subversive. It was a natural conduit to gay people reading between the lines because that's what we had to do in comedy.
The “real” Bradys
The first film featured cameos by many of the Brady Bunch sitcom stars, but the sequel didn’t have any. While the movie actors have fond memories of meeting several original Bradys, some recalled tensions running high with a certain legend.
Zimmerman: A lot of the actors didn’t want to be in it.
Sanford: I feel like we reached out to them for the sequel, and nothing came of it.
Cox: How do I say this? I don’t think that they were offering them the money that they deserve. They should have shelled it out.
Hack: They wrote a cameo [in the first film] for Florence [Henderson, who played Carol on TV], and she was the biggest bitch in the world to Shelley Long. She said something that was so cutting and dismissive in front of all of us to hear. She just showed up and was out for blood.
Sutera: We completely reshot the ending just so we could have Florence in it when she finally agreed to do a cameo. And Florence was just a nightmare. Sweet-ish to us kids, but just not a nice person. You know, that backhanded comment to Shelley. It was something derogatory along the lines of, “Well, I know how to be a real mother.” It was just uncalled for and jarring.
Zimmerman: Jim and I knew that Maureen McCormick really loved country things, so we wrote a scene of her singing in a country bar and the Bradys run through the bar or something. She said no. But years later, I’m at a gay bar and the owner says somebody wants to meet you, and he dragged over Maureen McCormick. She's like, “I loved the movies. Why didn’t you ask me to be in them?” I literally wanted to throw a football at her nose.
Taylor: Maureen and I didn’t meet until she came to the premiere of the sequel. And she was so positive and complimentary. I think seeing the success of the first film, she was like, why don’t I go to the premiere? I took a picture with her. I had waited my whole life for that.
Hack: The Bradys hate us. We’re not really a part of the TV Bradys’ world and they kind of wish that we didn't exist. I think they thought that we were making fun of them.
Mantel: I didn’t get to meet Ann B. Davis [the original Alice] until she was driving the truck at the end of filming the first movie. The character came so much easier after I met her. She was a really special person.
Cox: I love Eve Plumb so much. I have never met her. I'm actually in this film with [some of the other original Brady kids] for Lifetime called Blending Christmas, coming out this Christmas. It’s a dream come true for me.
Mantel: We were like the ugly stepchildren at this Brady expo we went to a few years ago. The fans just wanted to talk to the real Bradys. There are some Brady freaks out there. Like Trekkies, only they’re Brady freaks.
After Ann B. Davis passed away in 2014, MSNBC ran Mantel's photo instead of Davis’ during a Chris Jansing-hosted segment covering Davis’ death.
Mantel: I couldn’t believe it. I woke up after it was on, and I had phone messages and emails being like, “Are you okay?” Everybody thought I was dead. I never heard a word from MSNBC. Apparently, to MSNBC, it wasn't that big of a deal. To Brady fans, it's a giant mistake.
A muted reception
A Very Brady Sequel opened on August 23, 1996, and was met with mixed critical reviews. Roger Ebert conceded, “Although I still am not a convert to the Brady universe, I did find myself enjoying A Very Brady Sequel more than The Brady Bunch Movie.” Still, it opened at No. 3 at the box office and earned less than half of what the original did. Any potential plans for another theatrical movie were scrapped. Cole and Long later reprised their roles in a panned 2002 TV movie, The Brady Bunch in the White House, but the kids and Alice were recast.
Sanford: The Olympics were that summer, and [Paramount] decided they didn’t want to release it in July, which was the original date. July would have been much better for a movie where the first line is, “I just love the last day of school.”
Cole: A sequel always has a target on its back. But at that point, I was like, whatever. We did what we had to do, and we felt we did it well.
Zimmerman: We knew that it wasn't going to make as much money as the first one. So, we just wanted to make it the best we could.
Berg: It was a damn good sequel.
In the years that followed, one simple line transcended the film: “Sure, Jan,” fired off by a pursed-lipped Christine Taylor. Thanks to the internet, the image of Marcia destroying Jan and her fictional boyfriend, George Glass, with that simple two-word zinger has been memed and GIF-ed into eternity.
Berg: I don’t think we expected it to take off. But the perfection of Christine’s delivery and the audience knowing Jan so well, it just has taken on a meaning in the modern world that we love.
Taylor: I don’t even know where to begin with “Sure, Jan.” I’m not on Twitter, but my friends will send it to me, and I just think it’s genius.
Zimmerman: It’s so interesting to see how people have loved that meme and can use it in so many different ways. We did not know how overly used it would be during the Trump administration.
Sutera: When Christine delivered that line, we were all sitting around the table, and I remember Chris and I in particular were like, “Oh my God.” We loved how the films ribbed on Jan. The fact that it still goes on, I think it's hilarious.
Taylor: It makes me laugh so much. I mean, who’da thunk it?
Cole: Which meme is it? I know I've seen a meme of Christine. I am not a social media person, so I’m rarely in a position where I would see something like that, but I've definitely seen one with Christine.
Once a Brady, always a Brady
While the cast drifted apart in the immediate aftermath of the films, many have reconnected in the 25 years since, and they often get recognized by fans for their iconic roles. Barnes declined an interview for this piece, but said to send “all my best to the Brady fam!” A rep for Soffer did not respond to email requests for an interview.
Hack: It’s funny. You become this very tight thing for a little bit, and then it all dissipates. We hadn't seen each other in almost 20 years, and then half of us did that Brady Con in New Jersey [in 2014]. It was really fun to hang out with them as adults, drink and smoke weed, shoot the shit, and reminisce. Because, really, only the nine of us will ever really know what that experience was like.
Taylor: Probably ten years ago, I was in a grocery store in LA and I hear this deep voice say, “Christine!” I turn around, and there's a person who’s like 6 feet tall, a man. And he said, “It’s Jesse from the Brady Bunch movies.” It was little Jesse [who played Bobby]. It was so jarring. And Olivia, she was on the Gilmore Girls [as Tanna, Rory's Yale suitemate]. My daughter was watching it, and I was like, why do I know that voice? Wait, it’s Cindy!
Cox: I would go walking in my neighborhood and people would scream out of their cars, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” They were screaming at me everywhere I went, like, “Come on, say it!” I always comply. Every once in a while, I’m like, “Fuck off.” But I’m totally into it. I’ll always be into it. I still get requests to do Jan on Cameo.
Taylor: People would say, “You're Marcia Brady.” And then they would say, “I watched you growing up.” They would think I was Maureen McCormick. I had a plumber come to the house once who was like, “You have not aged a day.” I wanted to say, “Well, I did age, but probably not as much as you think because I'm not Maureen.”
Mantel: I had a day job after the movies came out—you know, my career would go up and down—and I was catering. Some guy came up to me and he goes, "I know who you are. You played Alice, and you're Henriette Mantel.” I go, “Are you kidding me? Do you think if I had her career that I would be catering?!”
Sutera: Thank God the paparazzi wasn’t anything like it is nowadays because there would have been news stories of crazy Peter Brady running around Hollywood. I was going to the Viper Room and the Whiskey drinking and partying and hanging out with other child actors, riding around in limos and tearing it up at 14.
Taylor: Before I met Ben [Stiller, who later became her husband], he was directing this pilot for Fox called Heat Vision and Jack, and I had a TV deal there. They were like, “Hey, you should see Christine.” Ben's first reaction was, “She’s Marcia Brady. I don’t want to.” Workwise, the Brady movies opened so many doors for me, but I do feel like there were a lot of people who were just like, “She’s a great impersonator.” That's okay, I'll take it. It was worth it for me to do it so well that people might think I really am Marcia.
Matheson: When I went to Comic-Con, people would say that they'd seen me in The West Wing or Burn Notice. And then, every now and then, somebody would come up and say, “Roy!”
Hack: The line that gets quoted to me the most is, ‘Your shoes will slip in the juice.” I would have people meet me and be like, “You don’t have a lisp in real life.” I was like, “That’s called acting.”
Sutera: I have a beard because if I shave I look like Peter Brady. I still do the voice. Every once in a while, people will be like, “Say, ‘Pork chops and applesauce!’” And a regular request throughout my life is, “Hey man, can we smoke blunts and watch your Bradys?” A lot of my friends have done that. I am happy to oblige.
Stay tuned for a reboot
Zimmerman and Berg are working on a potential new series that would see Taylor, Cox, and Hack reprise their roles for a spinoff series about Marcia, Jan, and Cindy, who are now adult Bradys in the 21st century.
Zimmerman: We would like to bring those three actresses back and do a streaming series called The Brady Ladies. Have Marcia, Jan, and Cindy be older and living in West Hollywood but still stuck in the past. I’ve actually talked to all of them, and they’d all be interested.
Cox: I picture Jan being completely woke. After her cataract operation, she can see perfectly and devotes her time to making the world a better place.
Hack: That sounds like a good time, and I’d love to laugh with everyone again.
Taylor: I would do it in a heartbeat. I said to them, you guys come up with something fun and let's play. Let’s do this. And I would love to work with the gals again.
Berg: We would love to see what Marcia would do with Instagram.
Zimmerman: And maybe RuPaul can be their landlord.