One-On-One with Susan Olsen
She’s ranked among Vh1’s Top 100 Greatest Kid Stars of television and film of all time. She played the adorable ‘Cindy Brady’ on the beloved Brady Bunch series from 1969 to 1974 and the show is, four decades later, aired more now than pretty much any other sitcom thanks to MeTV and Hallmark Channel. Before SUSAN OLSEN was a ‘Brady’ she acted with Elvis Presley and made her TV debut on Ironside at age six. She is currently part of another ensemble cast on the web series Child of the ‘70s, has a radio show, and her work for animal welfare is tireless. She teaches “kids how to survive Hollywood” by heading up acting classes at Vibe Performing Arts Studios in Santa Clarita. She also recently appeared on Entertainment Tonight to discuss her son’s battle with autism….
What landed you in show business at such a young age?
I was on set while my sister did a commercial; a director saw me and wanted to put me in a Downey Fabric Softener commercial [at 14 months old]. I did that and started getting more work. At age 5 in school a talent scout picked me out to sing a song on The Pat Boone Show. My mom asked me if I wanted her to get me an agent and I said (with ‘Cindy Brady’ lisp) “Oh, yes mommy!”
You were the first one to be cast in The Brady Bunch. How did that happen?
I really wanted a steady job; I auditioned three days after my seventh birthday. [Creator] Sherwood Schwartz never really had me do any script audition. He just thought I was interesting!
Which is your favorite Brady Bunch episode?
The one’s in Hawaii because we got to go there! As an audience member it’s the one where Peter and Greg go on a double date and Peter eats off his mustache. I think Chris Knight is really funny in that.
Are you still in touch with each Brady kid?
You bet! Barry Williams is ‘Johnny Bravo’! He performs in Branson. He has made a living being ‘Greg Brady.’ I have been the least in touch with Maureen McCormick (‘Marcia’). She’s a wonderful mother and her daughter is grown and in college. I see Christopher Knight (‘Peter’) a lot; we have adopted five cats to him! He’s a really good guy and keeps getting more and more handsome every time I see him. Eve Plumb (‘Jan’) is living in New York and it looks good on her. Mike Lookinland (‘Bobby’) is my best friend; I named my son after him.
‘Mr. Brady,’ the late Robert Reed, was a father figure to you both on and off screen?
He had a daughter who moved with her mother to Illinois after they divorced and I always felt that the hole in his heart from losing her was filled by us kids. I’m very close to his daughter these days and I’ve always felt that we got the love that her dad wanted to give her.
Many celebrities have been on ‘The Brady Bunch,’ here are two … Joe Namath….
He was just a doll and so game! Florence Henderson (‘Mrs. Brady’) loved to do outtakes. The director calls “action” and Florence runs up to Joe and says, “Get me away from these horrible children!” (Laughs) So he picked her up and carried her off the set. He had a great sense of humor.
He was going through a divorce when he did our show. He wasn’t a happy guy or super friendly. In the years that followed Davey was one of the sweetest, kindest gentlemen I’ve ever known. He met my son about a year before he (Jones) died and gave him a vintage Monkees pin. Love the fact that he used to say to me, “After all the stuff I’ve done with The Monkees and everything I’ve done over the years all I’m known for is my one episode of The Brady Bunch!”
The Brady house is actually right here in Toluca Lake! Do you ever go by it?
I have only been once. I was invited to ride around in the Oscar Mayer wiener mobile for a day and someone mentioned that the house was nearby. There was already a bus load of tourists in front. Along comes the wiener mobile and out pops Cindy Brady. They were kind of speechless.
After graduating from the American Academy for the Performing Arts you took an acting class with some other interesting people….
Ray Liotta used to sit right behind me! During one of the classes we had a minute of silence to pray for our classmate, Steven Bauer, right before he was to audition with Al Pacino for Scarface. Heather Graham, Tatum O’Neal, Melanie Griffith were all in my class.
Another talent you have is graphic design.
Eve and I were always drawing when we weren’t busy on set. I was actually into the punk scene, but since I couldn’t shave my head and be cool I decided to paint some shoes. I painted my Converse All-Star high tops zebra stripes with glow-in-the-dark paint. I pitched it to Converse and they bought it!
What is ‘Art of Rescue by Susan Olsen’?
It is on Facebook; go to ‘The Pieces’ section. (Smiles) I also sell [humorously named] fudge that I make myself to raise money for animals. I have an obsession with marshmallow fluff so I always make sure to put fluff in the fudge, which actually improves its shelf life! I’m in talks right now with a manufacturer.
Of all the animal welfare organizations, why pick Precious Paws to help?
Kismet. Chris [Knight] had worked with Georgeen Malone, who formed Precious Paws, in the casting business. She rescued cats on the Paramount lot, got them spayed and neutered so the cats in turn could help keep the rat population down.
What made you gravitate to becoming a radio talk show host?
I started in 1995 at KLSX after pursuing it for three years. After I did a guest spot on Howard Stern I got a show with Ken Ober. It was supposed to be radio’s version of Seinfeld. My current radio show Two Chicks Talkin Politics is on the web at latalkradio.com/Twochicks.php Mondays at 7p.m.
You recently appeared on The Biography Channel’s Celebrity Ghost Stories.
I’m one of the few people that actually had to tame my story down. I had an entity that was visiting me at night and being really mean to me. It seemed to be linked to my husband because once we got divorced it went away. When he came back over for a visit he brought it back with him!
You suffer from migraines which you took to Larry King Live.
I was the National Spokesperson for Migraine Awareness. I would travel around the country with a couple of neurologists, hold seminars, and do talk shows. We wanted to create awareness and encourage those who suffer from migraines, which are mostly women, to take charge, go to their doctor, take it seriously, keep journals, and try different medications.
You were just on Entertainment Tonight and let the world know that your son has a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome.
Yes, I think there are too many moms, like me, feeling very alone. It is not uncommon for Asperger’s kids to be violent and as a single mother I was experiencing that. Some of my son’s therapists were doing more harm than good. He has a really good team now, but as I said on ET I was thinking about having him sent away to a residential facility. But we found a better option; his dad stepped up to the plate.