It’s surprising, given how popular the iconic US television series, The Brady Bunch, was (and is) in this country that Susan Olsen, aka Cindy Brady, has never been to Australia.
“That’s what’s so weird,” she says. “We weren’t aware of it, but The Brady Bunch was actually bigger in Australia than it was in America. It’s a shame that I’ve never been there. I know Mike hasn’t been. Christopher Knight went there and was amazed at how popular The Brady Bunch was. It seems like we should have done something a lot sooner.”
She may still be ‘the youngest one in curls’ to many of us, but Olsen has led a full life as an actor, musician, mother and animal welfare activist. Olsen acknowledges, however, that especially in promoting an appearance (with Mike Lookinland, aka Bobby Brady) at Supanova, The Brady Bunch is the topic at hand. While most people’s childhood memories from the ‘60s-’70s come in the form of fading photos and dodgy Super-8 film, her childhood is still neatly intact with all 117 episodes of The Brady Bunch, as are her recollections of the time.
“I think it has to do with the fact that we were learning to memorise scripts. I think that opened up a part of my mind where I could memorise my life.
“Every single actor on The Brady Bunch will tell you I’m the one to ask about what-happened-and-when. All that stuff. I know Brady trivia, I actually watch the show. They joke with me, ‘oh you’re just making it all up’, but I really do remember and amazing amount of my childhood.”
Olsen looks back fondly on her Brady years, but it could be tough back at school when some of her classmates seemingly couldn’t separate Cindy from Susan.
“It’s funny because most people think that it must have been really cool to be on a TV show while you were going to school, but it was exactly the opposite. Particularly if you were playing a character that wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
“I used to be grateful that the show aired on a Friday and there was a whole weekend so that hopefully people would kind of forget the dumb things Cindy did by Monday, so they wouldn’t have much to tease me about… but they always did. And I got teased horribly, and bullied.
“But what kept me sane was the fact that all of my real friends stood up for me. To them I was just Susan and Cindy was something else. It was only the kids that didn’t know me that teased me. That was a very important factor. In my mind it became ‘if they know me, if they become my friend, then they like me. So I shouldn’t take any of this personally’. But it’s still embarrassing when people throw stuff at you at school.”
It’s no surprise that Olsen shares a bond with the other Brady cast members, but it’s unusual in that it’s a family held together by other people’s memories, hence its lasting popularity.
“I think that all of us intuitively know that every single one of us has only five other people on the planet who understand what our childhood was like,” Olsen says. “And that creates an immediate bond between all of us.
“You know what? We were good kids. We are nice people. We don’t feel compelled to stay in touch or write birthday cards or anything like that, ‘cause there’s always something that brings us together. And when we get together it’s like no time has passed at all. My relationship with Mike Lookinland is the same as it was when we were 10; we’re still looking for how to prank people (laughs). It’s really, really very lovely and it’s an enriched life. It’s kind of an extended childhood.”
Supanova Pop Culture Expo runs at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre from Friday, June 26, until Sunday, June 28. For tickets and info, go to supanova.com.au