Susan Olsen Remembers Florence Henderson — and Reveals the 'Practical Advice' Her Brady Bunch Costar Passed On
"As much as maybe it might have not always been pleasant for her kids to have to share her with the world, I think that they're in complete agreement that she's the best mom," Olsen tells PEOPLE
Henderson, who passed away at the age of 82 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering heart failure, starred on The Brady Brunch as matriarch Carol Brady and played the mother of Olsen’s character Cindy Brady.
Following the death of the beloved TV actress on Thursday, Olsen spoke with PEOPLE about her former costar, whom she worked with for five seasons and last saw in June at a Tony Awards west coast viewing party where Henderson received a Lifetime Achievement award. “I’m glad I got that visit in,” Olsen, 55, says.
All three of The Brady Bunch adult cast members treated us kids both as professionals and with some parental flavor thrown in. The attitude was ‘Yes, she’s playing a mom, but she is also a real mother.’ We used to go over to her house because she had kids our age. I went to several sleepovers at Florence’s house and got to see her being a mom to her kids. She was very much another mother figure. Throughout the years, the show just kept reincarnating in different forms. The last show was The Bradys and I was a full-grown adult by that time, but there was still this sense of ‘Oh my gosh, good! Mom and dad are here — everything’s fine,’ when Robert and Florence would walk in the door.
She taught me something very, very practical and I heeded her advice all my life. She said, ‘Try to come to the studio, on whatever job you’re doing, camera ready.’ She had her own makeup case and a lot of times she’d be doing her own makeup even though on the set of Brady Bunch we had our regular makeup people that were there every day. But she mentioned this to me when we were doing some personal appearance and boy, maybe a couple weeks later, the whole cast were on The Bradys. We were all in Florida doing a talk show and it was raining and the show was outdoors. For some reason, the makeup person was not there: they were missing in action. Florence came up to me and she said, ‘See, we’re the only ones who are ready!’ And we were because I’d learned from her. Now, if somebody wants to adjust my makeup on set that’s fine, but I don’t want to get there and be at the mercy of a hairstylist or a makeup person.
She was just the constant performer — really, really super professional, but great fun. She might throw a cake just to get the crew to laugh, but she could afford to do that because everything with Florence gets done ahead of schedule. Later on, people got to see that she had a sense of humor: she wasn’t afraid to get a little blue and be kind of a naughty girl. We all knew that, but Carol Brady wasn’t anything like that. Florence got a chance to show that in a lot of different things that she did. She was also a great mother in real life. As much as maybe it might have not always been pleasant for her kids to have to share her with the world, I think that they’re in complete agreement that she’s the best mom.