A Dangerous Encounter Drove Susan Olsen To Quit Acting After ‘The Brady Bunch’


This is the story of a lovely lady’s youngest little girl. For the full run of The Brady Bunch, actress Susan Olsen was the face of Cindy Brady, the youngest child of the titular family. But compared to the resumes of some of her colleagues, Susan’s is not quite as full. Why did she step away from acting, compared to the persistent fame and credits her peers enjoyed after the influential sitcom?

Born in 1961, Susan was only eight when she was cast as Cindy Brady. Exempting Ironside, Julia, and Gunsmoke, it would be one of Susan’s earliest roles – and certainly her first time as a main cast member. Unfortunately, despite her lack of experience, Susan would get the full star experience packed into a very short amount of time – and it was enough to leave a lasting impression and rattle her.


Playing Cindy Brady gave Susan Olsen a lot of fame, for better and for worse

Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady / Everett Collection

“Fame was the one part I didn’t like,” revealed Olsen. “I loved the work. I loved my castmates. I really loved the industry. I really liked what I did. I was a kid who wanted a job.” However, stardom came with unrelenting pressure and attention that’s a lot for adults to handle, never mind preteens. She recalled a time she went up north to watch a production by her uncle, a Palo Alto-based drama teacher. “I got recognized in the audience and I got mobbed,” said Susan.


RELATED: Did ‘Brady Bunch’ Actress Susan Olsen Really Have A Lisp?

“They had to call the police to get me out,” she continued. “It was this huge crowd of people. I’d seen a grownup who [said], ‘Oh look, her little face is red. She can’t breathe – here, sign one more [autograph].’ It was very, very frightening. I didn’t like it. I was ready to quit the show.”

Susan wanted space from the literal mob that fame brought her

THE BRADY BUNCH, Eve Plumb, (back, l to r): Christopher Knight, James A. McDivitt, Barry Williams (middle row): Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Florence Henderson, Susan Olsen, Maureen McCormick, (front): Frank Delfino, Sadie Delfino on-set, ‘Out of This World’, (Season 5, aired Jan. 18, 1974), 1969-74 / Everett Collection

Playing Cindy gave Susan plenty of chances for some deep, revealing introspection. She realized “fame to me was silly. Just really, really ridiculous. It was like fool’s gold.” After that occasion when the polite had to escort her out, Susan learned that she was swarmed because the fans adored her and her character so much. She was still young, though, and the experience was a very lasting – negative – one.

On top of that, her peers were young too and many equated her to her character. So, when Cindy acted in any abrasive way or tattled on anyone, kids around Susan assumed she was just like that too, and so avoided her.

Now, Susan tells others of her experiences as a child star / ImageCollect

But Susan still has a remarkable platform because of her early, enduring fame, and she’s using that platform to help others in the industry, which can be so rewarding and so troubling. She appeared at The Hollywood Museum just in time for its tribute called Motion Picture Mothers, a nonprofit created back in ’39 to support women whose children became actors. Now, fans could get a candid, honest, firsthand look at the effects of stardom, even the kind that, in theory, brings early name recognition, which itself is a double-edged sword.

“I’d do my best work on auditions while I was playing drug addicts or ax murderers – things like that,” mused Susan, “And they would say, ‘You’re really good, but we just can’t cast Cindy Brady in this role.’ And it’s like, if I can’t do the meaty stuff that I want to do, why am I doing this?”

Now, she’s got graphic design studies in her belt and has done extensive radio host work, while carrying on the legacy of The Brady Bunch as one of the last surviving cast members, all from a safe distance.

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