Shelley Long: Florence Henderson Was ‘Sassy and Sexy’

Florence Henderson
Frazer Harrison/GettyImages
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: Actress Florence Henderson poses for a portrait at the amfAR LA Inspiration Gala on October 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

As Carol Brady, the matriarch of the blended family at the center of ABC’s ’70s mega-hit The Brady Bunch, Florence Henderson (February 14, 1934–November 24, 2016) embodied the quintessential American mom for five seasons, as well as countless reunions, spinoffs and decades of nonstop syndication. But Henderson wasn’t the only actress to play the iconic Mrs. Brady. Cheers vet Shelley Long famously took on the role for the tongue-in-cheek 1995 film The Brady Bunch Movie and got actual face time with the famously beatific Henderson.

Florence Henderson

Long as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch movies

“Our versions of The Brady Bunch were parodies. The outside world was contemporary, but the family had to be the same,” says Long. “My instructions were—and [director and Hill Street Blues vet] Betty Thomas came close to using a whip about this—that I had to do Carol exactly like Florence.”

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Though they worked together briefly (Henderson appeared as Carol’s mother at the end of the 1995 film), Long remembers her warmly. “On set, she was a firecracker: sassy and sexy, quite surprising for the grandma,” she recalls. “She said she thought I was too tall. I started thinking more petite after that.”

Still, Long is grateful to have played such a beloved character, made famous by such a groundbreaking actress. “Florence gave me very big shoes to fill,” she says. “I think I came pretty close, but never got it quite right. I guess I was too tall.”