In one case, I made an exception. I cast Mike Lookinland as Bobby, the youngest boy. He had kind of blondish hair, but he was clearly the best actor of the youngest boys. He was 6 1/2, maybe 7. He read very well, and he was the most appealing of the boys who auditioned for Bobby.
If the boys were to be dark haired, I decided we would darken Mike's hair. That's the way it turned out. I know it was an annoyance for him and gave his hair a reddish tinge. But it instantly made him one of the Brady boys. I guess that a very early age poor Mike learned you have to suffer for your art. Since very few young children have much experience, the casting would mostly be determined by the interviews, which were really just chats. That would make the kids feel more comfortable.
I was once asked by TV Guide about the number of kids I personally interviewed to find the six Brady kids. My secretary went through my files and discovered 264 interviews.
It was set up this way: I sat on a chair across from the boy or girl I was interviewing. Between us there was a coffee table. I asked the youngsters a few casual questions. "Have you had any experience in commercials, or TV, or movies, or print ads, or have you been in plays at school?" And so on.
While I was asking the kids these general questions, my coffee table served as a sort of concentration test. I placed objects on the table directly between us that might be interesting to children. There was a model fire engine, a plastic horse, a doll, and some sort of a broken object that might be puzzling to a child. I wanted to see if they would be distracted from our discussion. On a sound stage when you're filming, there are lots of fascinating things to look at. If kids lost interest in our discussion, they might also lose interest in rehearsing. I wanted children who could stay focused. If they passed that basic test (and they were a good interview), we would move on to reading a few lines with me.
In addition to being good actors, none of the Brady kids you have been watching for all these years played with anything on the table.
For some reason, the girls were easier to cast. Maureen looked like she would grow up really beautiful, and that certainly could become part of her character. Eve, the middle girl, was very pretty but sounded like she could easily be provoked, and Susan was just as cute as can be. And she had a lisp that made her even cuter.
Barry had a sense of maturity beyond his years; Chris had a devilish side that I found very appealing, and Mike had an enthusiastic energy that made him instantly likeable. You can understand that it has been a long time since those original interviews, and trying to remember what made each of them stand out isn't easy. I know I was taken with the ones I picked, and I dare say their lives have changed considerably because they were in my office for casting.
The one interview that does stand out in my mind was Susan Olsen's. She came in and started describing a recent role she had on "Gunthmoke." That's how she said it. And yes, the lisp was real. She told me about how she got to ride a "horth," and that there was a "thnake." She was adorable, and she got to be "Thindy" based on that brief meeting. Later, I heard that people thought that I forced her to lisp. With Susan, as with all the kids, we just took who they were and that became their characters.