The Greg Brady Project

Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog

My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…

07 May
Barry Williams

What I Learned From Robert Reed

written by Barry Williams in Blog, barry | 10 comments

‘Family #2′

Often times I am asked what it was like to basically have two families, my natural family with Mom and Dad and my two older brothers and my Brady family. First, please understand there was never any confusion about which was real. I didn’t go to Maureen McCormick for sisterly advice for goodness sake, I had the hots for her. Nor for instance did I ever confuse Robert Reed as being my father, I already had a Dad.

As an actor, one of the really nice things about being on a successful TV series is that you don’t have to spend all of your time looking for a new job. You have your call times, your studio, a schedule, the crew and cast that becomes familial. In our case the cast was also playing a family and to some extent we all assumed those roles in life. When the Brady kids were on tour or making appearances, I was protective and fended for my Brady brothers and sisters just like the reliable big brother I played. Florence Henderson could see the road ahead and gently pointed out to me the smooth and the rough spots that were to come. Robert Reed did not assume the role of my father but I do consider him a mentor.

This is really cool. I had a man who was in our show acting as my father who took on some of those qualities and was interested in the same thing I was — ACTING. My own father didn’t know or really care very much about the craft, he was more interested in raising his three boys.

Robert was a consummate actor. Whether he was playing Shakespeare or in a sitcom, he approached every role with the same amount of focus and energy. That is one of the reasons he struggled so mightily with The Brady Bunch. He wanted everything, every scene to be 100% believable which wasn’t very realistic to achieve on our show. But that focus was a manna for me as I developed as an actor. I was no stranger to show business by the time I started work on The Brady Bunch but I had never had a chance to work consistently on one show with one cast and that experience made a world of difference.

Robert recognized my desire to break scenes down. To look for the arcs the transitions the surprises, the life and the reality in scenes. We would do acting exercises he learned at Northwestern University and at London’s Royal Academy, such as improvising, speed throughs, dissection of speeches etc. and I learned. Those exercises have been with me my entire career and have helped me as I have taken on role after role. Robert also introduced me to Lee Strasburg, the well respected acting teacher.

Robert was a pain with the demands he placed on the studio, our producers, the network and the writers. He insisted on the highest quality possible. I am grateful he was the patriarch of our cast. Without his grounding our show would not have had the same genuine qualities and earnestness.

In 1992 I was on a one year tour starring in the National Broadway production of CITY OF ANGELS. While traveling my book GROWING UP BRADY was published. Robert contributed greatly to the book and he wrote the forward. Our tour changed cities on average every one to two weeks. I would do book signings and make appearances during the day for the book and perform in the show at night. Bob was not in good health and I had stayed in touch with him by phone. Bob passed away sixteen years ago this Monday, on May 12, 1992. I had gotten the news that night when I returned from the theatre where we were playing in Chicago. Ironically the next day I was scheduled to do a talk at his alma mater, Northwestern. I struggled with whether I should go. I wondered if it would be disrespectful and frankly I really didn’t feel much like showing up and putting on a pretend happy face.

I asked myself, what would he want me to do? I am very glad I went and gave my talk. It wasn’t exactly the one I had planned and I didn’t put on a fake smile. I acknowledged his passing with the student body and shared far more than an hour of my thoughts and feelings about Bob and the contributions he made to me as an actor and a person.

He was just 59 years old when he passed away, about 40 years to soon. He is missed.



    on May. 8th, 2008

    Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts about Robert Reed.

    I remember being very sad when I learned of his passing and I was hardly alone.

    I’ve always enjoyed his work and feel he especially brought great warmth to his work on the Brady Bunch series and the spin-offs.

    He may have intensely disliked many of the Brady scripts but it never showed up on camera.

    He is still missed.

    on May. 8th, 2008

    Wow – sixteen years. Time has gone by so quickly! He was a great “father” on screen. Glad that he took you under his wing!

    on May. 8th, 2008

    That’s the same thing I’ve always thought. I’ve read about and heard about how much Robert disliked the series, but it never shows in the work. He did a great job of keeping the illusion alive.

    on May. 8th, 2008

    It just proves what an amazing actor Robert was that he was able to hide his issues with the script and plow on through…

    Another great post, Barry. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Ontario Emperor
    on May. 8th, 2008

    I own a copy of GROWING UP BRADY, and for those of you who haven’t read the book, much of it is centered on the different perspectives of Robert Reed and the Schwartzes. Regarding acting, however, the most valuable thing in the book was your discussion of working with Robert Wagner.

    on May. 8th, 2008

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    But I must ask, by using that picture, are you saying that “Fake Jan” was a part of Family #2?

    Please advise.

    on May. 8th, 2008

    When Robert Reed passed I flet like a member of my own family had died. I was surprised how deeply it hit me. It made me realize how much of an influence The Brady Bunch made on me in my formative years. I just wish I had been able to meet Bob in person to say hello and thanks. Thankfully I have been able to meet Barry a few times and his book does capture the essence of his “Dad”.

    on May. 8th, 2008

    Wow Brian – good eye!! I had not even noticed that that was not the “real” jan!

    on May. 12th, 2008

    It’s clear that the pressure exerted by Robert Reed helped ground the Brady Bunch a bit more in reality, at the same time, some of the more absurd elements of the show, which probably disturbed Reed, are what have been appreciated over the years by the fans.

    So I think Reed’s influence helped but in the end, if the Schwartz’ had made exactly the show that Reed wanted, it would have become a bit too real.

    on May. 18th, 2008

    I always admired Robert Reed as an actor.

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