Actor Robert Reed Proved To Be Difficult On 'The Brady Bunch' Set & Often Refused To Say Certain Lines

Sep 15, 2023 by apost team

Robert Reed, born John Robert Rietz Jr., was a famed actor renowned for playing Michael “Mike” Brady in the sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” which ran from 1969 to 1974, and had subsequent spin-offs and sequels in later years.

His dad was a government worker who later became a cattle farmer in Oklahoma after he retired. Reed joined an agricultural club in his teenage years, but his interests lay elsewhere: music and acting. However, he acted and sang in high school and wrote drama scripts for a local radio station.

Reed studied drama at Northwestern University and played the lead in over eight drama productions in school. He was an avid drama fan and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London after graduating from university.

Reed also joined a Shakespeare-themed band called “The Shakespearewrights,” specializing in the playwright’s plays on Broadway. He was part of the band for two years and played the lead in two roles, “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” His flair for plays led him to the Studebaker Theatre company after he left “The Shakespearewrights.” 

However, Reed branched into TV roles in the 1950s. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue a professional career on TV and hopefully gain more force in his career. The actor landed his first major television role in 1961, “The Defenders.” He would later sign two contracts with Paramount, where he got the role in “The Brady Bunch.” 

Reed’s attitude, however, proved to be a massive pain for the crew as he often insisted on not saying certain things in the script. He also reportedly went into his trailer in objection to some scenes, according to “The Brady Bunch” creator Sherwood Schwartz. Keep reading for the details.

Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Barry Williams, Susan Olsen, Christopher Knight (circa 1972), (Hulton Archive/Archive Photos via Getty Images)

Reed had difficulty finding notable roles after playing prominent roles in some TV dramas. Coupled with his disdain for TV and anything that wasn’t Shakespearian, he had a hard time adjusting to other entertainment genres. 

The Defenders” was canceled after 132 episodes, and the actor was stuck with primarily supporting roles on TV. However, he already had his first film debut in “Bloodlust!” in 1961. He went on to feature in series such as “Family Affair,” “Ironside,” “The Mod Squad” and “Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre.”

Starring as Mike Brady gave him the break he needed and made him famous years after the series ended. The sitcom lasted for 117 episodes and resonated with audiences. However, it didn’t make it to the list of the highest-rated TV shows at the time. The cast found fame later when the series developed a cult following and became a cultural icon. It also became a popular syndication choice.

Reed also had other notable roles, including in “Medical Center,” where he played a transgender doctor in a two-part episode. He earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for this and two other Emmy nominations for his role in “Roots” and “Rich Man, Poor Man,” where he had guest appearances. 

Reed often clashed with the producers and directors of “The Brady Bunch” because he wanted to make the series more realistic. He had a history of not saying the lines he was required to say and storming off the set. He also wrote memorandums to the producer, Sherwood Schwartz, suggesting new lines or other input to the TV show. However, Reed had a great relationship with the cast, especially the children, and they loved him.

Robert Reed (circa 1970), (Archive Photos via Getty Images)

In an interview with the Television Academy, also posted on FoundationInterviews on Nov. 4, 2010, Schwartz disclosed some of the issues he had on set with the actor. 

“He turned out to be a pain in the neck,” Schwartz admitted. “He and I never got along at all.” 

The producer also shared:

“He wound up on a show that he didn’t want to do in the first place, and it became more and more difficult for him. His idea of a show was based on the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

Reed was passionate about fact-checking his scripts and refused to say anything the encyclopedia said was incorrect.

“His one passion was accuracy,” Schwartz revealed.

In one instance, Reed was supposed to comment on how the house smelled after walking in on his wife and their housekeeper competing to know who made the better strawberry preserves. He was meant to say the house “smelled like strawberry heaven.” However, Reed insisted that strawberries didn’t give off a scent when cooked.

After Schwartz cooked strawberries on the set to prove that strawberries did have a scent when cooked, they agreed to tweak the line to read, “this looks like strawberry heaven.”

In another instance, Reed insisted that eggs didn’t make one slip after consulting his encyclopedia. When he tried to prove his point that they were only sticky, he slipped and fell after walking on broken eggs.

Reed also refused to appear in the fifth season finale. He said the script was “outlandish, unbelievable, ridiculous, and I won’t do the show” after reading that his last child would sell a hair tonic to his older brother, whose hair color changed after washing his hair with it. He was fired and would have been replaced, but ABC canceled the show before the sixth season.

The Brady Bunch (circa 1970), (Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

What do you think of Robert Reed’s attitude? Did you watch "The Brady Bunch?" Did you have a favorite character? Let us know, and be sure to pass this on to fans of "The Brady Bunch."

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