“There’s benefits and strangeness to a public life like that. I remember it being very uncomfortable in particular when I was 11 and 12 in what you call middle school. What I can tell you is that kids are not innocent – they’re really, really cruel! More so than adults.
“Because I was on a TV show you’re different and being different is death to kids. I used to come home to my mum and say: ‘I just want to be normal – I just want to be a normal kid!’ And she’d tell me: ‘You’re so lucky you’re not!’”
Originally airing from 1969 to 1974, five seasons of The Brady Bunch were produced –followed by spinoffs including The Brady Brides (1981) and A Very Brady Christmas (1988) – and the family haven’t been off our screens since.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original show’s small-screen debut and yet, despite five decades having gone by, audiences across the world still haven’t tired of the all-American Brady clan. And though the TV family were the epitome of wholesome and squeaky clean, behind-the-scenes it was a different story.
Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, revealed in her 2008 autobiography, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, that she dated screen brother Greg (Barry Williams) during filming, and also opened up about her cocaine addiction and depression. Meanwhile Barry admitted to smoking marijuana, even turning up on set high, which led to an episode rewrite.
Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby, went on to develop an alcohol addiction in his 20s, and Susan Olsen (Cindy) spilled the beans four years ago, when she confirmed in an interview that all of the kids “hooked up” during shooting, and that she and Mike smooched in the dog house when they were 9.
“I laugh at it all,” says a smiling Christopher. “People think that we’re not messed up because none of us has been to jail or has been arrested.
“It’s pretty clear that the bar for anybody who was a child star is quite low!”
As for Christopher, his inner turmoil was primarily around being so synonymous with his alter ego. Though he long since traded in his screen character’s dimpled smile and brunette bouffant for a few extra lines and a salt and pepper crop, he can’t escape the Peter Brady tag.
“I did struggle,” he admits.
“I was trying to leave it behind and hoping Peter would die and I’d be able to sail away without him being my alter ego.
“But then I realised that he’s not going anywhere. Peter’s more well-known than Chris, he’s in the room before I get there, he’s in the room after I’ve left, and it’s quite surreal to realise that Peter’s going to be around after I’m gone. I can’t really escape that, so why try to run from it?”
Coming to terms with Peter has allowed the actor to join his fellow Brady Bunch co-stars for a new reality TV gig, A Very Brady Renovation, which sees the original cast of kids team up to renovate the actual LA house that provided the exterior for the famous Brady residence.
“We are very much like family,” Chris says of his screen sibling reunion. “As such, it’s not as though we’re seeing each other for the first time in 50 years.
“We’ve got very close friendships. Maybe not all at the same time, but there’s not one of us who has been out of the loop. I have five different relationships and they don’t depend on everybody being together at one time.”
A Very Brady Renovation is now airing on TLC and the special holiday edition airs on Dec. 23.