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Barry Williams Remembers His TV Mom, 'Brady Bunch' Star Florence Henderson


PEPPERMINT TROLLEY COMPANY: (Singing) Here's the story...


Today we're remembering a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls. You know the rest.


PEPPERMINT TROLLEY COMPANY: (Singing) All of them had hair of gold, like their mother, the youngest one in curls...

SHAPIRO: One of the most beloved TV moms of all time died yesterday in Los Angeles. Florence Henderson, who played Carol Brady on the sitcom "The Brady Bunch," was 82.

We're joined now by Barry Williams, who played the part of the eldest Brady child, Greg. Welcome to the program, and I'm so sorry for the loss of your co-star and friend.

BARRY WILLIAMS: I appreciate that. It is nice to be with you, although I wish under different circumstances.

SHAPIRO: Will you tell us about the first time you met Florence Henderson?

WILLIAMS: Well, Florence Henderson was busy making a movie when we started filming our show. First time I saw her, she came in, she was completely made up as Carol Brady. And I thought, wow, this is my - going to be my mom?


SHAPIRO: What does that mean?

WILLIAMS: Well, I was very impressed. And I thought she was - you know, at the time, moms weren't usually quite so snappy or sassy or fun. And I just thought she was cute (laughter).

SHAPIRO: You know, there was always a rumor that the two of you dated, which I understand is false. But you did actually ask her out once, is that right?

WILLIAMS: Did I ask her out on a date? Yes, I did. Now, I don't think it was designed for romance and certainly not in her mind. You know, she has four children. But she knew that I wanted music to be an important part of my career, and she was very established as a Broadway actress and as a singer. And I thought it would be nice to discuss some of those ideas and plans and how I might be able to use them over dinner. So we went out on what I called a date and what she thought was maybe a lovely, friendly business meeting.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) I'd like to play a clip from one of the more well-known episodes of "The Brady Bunch." This is where your character, Greg, comes home from school, and Carol sees a pack of cigarettes falling from your jacket. Let's listen.


WILLIAMS: (As Greg Brady) But they're not mine, honest, mom.

FLORENCE HENDERSON: (As Carol Brady) All right, Greg, if you say so.

MARIE DENN: (As Mrs. Johnson) Mrs. Brady, I can understand your wanting to believe your own son.

HENDERSON: (As Carol Brady) He said they weren't his.

SHAPIRO: How would you describe the kind of TV mom she was?

WILLIAMS: Ari, I am so glad that you played that particular clip. I think that buried in that scene is the success of the entire show. It was about a non-dysfunctional family. This is a family that could communicate, but, more importantly, one that trusted each other. And that is - let me - I could almost use Florence's words. She said that she wanted to create a mother like the one she had always wished she had had, someone who was kind, who was caring, loving and willing to hear her kids out and give them the benefit of the doubt.

SHAPIRO: You've spent so much time as a cast together over the years. What was she like to the six actors playing her children when the cameras stopped rolling?

WILLIAMS: Well, there were many facets. You know, as Carol Brady, she was mom. As Florence Henderson, she had a strong maternal quality. She knew how to rein it in if we were getting out of line or stopped focusing and concentrating. She could bring all six of us together and get us straight.

SHAPIRO: How would she do that?

WILLIAMS: Well, sometimes it was with a whistle or sometimes it was just - she would pick the one who's making the most noise. And she would go, Chris.


WILLIAMS: And Chris - Peter would stop in his tracks, you know, and we would all pay attention.

SHAPIRO: That's Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady in "The Brady Bunch," remembering his co-star Florence Henderson who died yesterday at the age of 82. Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: I so much appreciate a chance to share with your listeners the wonderful experience that it has been knowing her. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.