Utahn Mike Lookinland starred as Bobby on “The Brady Bunch,” but he never went near the house familiar to fans as the Brady abode.
He and the rest of the cast never filmed a second of footage at the real house, which was used only in exterior shots. Lookinland didn’t see it in person until long after the original “Brady Bunch” series ended its five-year run in 1974.
In 1990, CBS was producing a short-lived, hourlong drama called “The Bradys” in which Lookinland reprised his role as Bobby, and his wife was played by Martha Quinn (one of the original VJs when MTV premiered in 1981).
“Somehow Martha found out that I didn’t even know where this house is,” Lookinland said in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “She said, ‘Get in the car.’”
Quinn drove Lookinland the 7 miles from the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood to the house in Studio City “because she goes and visits it every time she’s in L.A. and brings her friends,” he said with a laugh. “She could not stand the thought of me not knowing where it was.”
With the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere approaching, Lookinland and his TV siblings rolled up their sleeves for “A Very Brady Renovation,” an HGTV project to make the interior of the real home seen in the original series (and several sequels) look like the TV sets — which were nothing alike.
“The outside of that house can’t possibly be that inside,” Lookinland said.
It was a single-story house — so no iconic staircase, no upstairs bedrooms and the window audiences saw on the upper left side of the home (as you face it) wasn’t real. Barry Williams (Greg) said he was invited to lunch there and had no idea where he was.
“They had to walk me back outside to look at the [angle] that we see on television for me to make the connection, because the inside resembled it not at all,” he said.
Last year, the house went on the market and HGTV bought it for what Williams called a “stupid” amount of money — $3.5 million. HGTV then spent enormous sums to add more than 2,000 square feet, almost doubling it in size. And every detail of the set has been replicated, from architecture to furniture to fabrics to the beaded curtains in Greg’s groovy attic to Tiger’s doghouse out back.
“They actually projected a picture of the stonework in the living room on the blank wall so that they could match the size and shape and color of the stones exactly,” Lookinland said.
The four-part series premieres Monday on HGTV (7 p.m. Dish and DirecTV; 10 p.m. Comcast). It concludes Sept. 30 — a day after the 50th anniversary of “The Brady Bunch” premiere on ABC.
All six of the original Brady kids — Lookinland, Williams, Christopher Knight (Peter), Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Eve Plumb (Jan) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) — signed on to the project. They each teamed up with HGTV hosts to renovate/remodel/build/decorate part of the home; Lookinland ended up working with Jasmine Roth (“Hidden Potential”) to create the Brady bedrooms.
“You guys, it’s just now occurring to me that I was given the master bedroom because it was the only one that wasn’t taken,” Lookinland told his TV siblings. “By the way, it turned out to be the best one.”
The actors who played the Brady parents and their maid have all passed away — Robert Reed in 1992, Florence Henderson in 2016 and Ann B. Davis in in 2014. But Williams said the surviving cast members could “feel their presence ... in these rooms.”
“And they would’ve loved it,” Lookinland added.
When the idea was pitched to him, Lookinland had two reactions. “I said, ‘You guys are crazy.’ And I said, ‘This is probably the best idea I’ve heard in a long, long time.’”
When the house went up for sale, he got dozens of texts “because Americans care what happens to this place.” All the cast members had similar stories, and all said they were asked if they wanted to buy the place themselves; only McCormick said she was interested.
Olsen, on the other hand, never considered it. “I was like, ‘No, why would I want to live in a house that has fans around it a lot of the time?’” she said. (According to HGTV, it’s the second-most photographed house in America after the White House.) “I was worried, though, that the wrecking ball might come to it. And it would kind of be like wrecking the American family.”
Not to worry. Now the home is what millions of fans always thought it was.
“I would’ve liked to have actually participated more in the building and the construction for this show,” said Lookinland, who knows something about renovating homes.
“My wife and I own a few houses — mostly in Millcreek,” said the Salt Lake Valley resident. “When they need work, we don’t call a painter or or the floor guy or the concrete guy. We get out and do what we can ourselves.”
Lookinland was a California kid who is also a Utah native, sort of accidentally. His grandparents lived here — his grandfather was the administrator of LDS Hospital — and his parents were visiting family in Spring City for the holidays in 1960.
“I was due around Christmas time. My parents came up to visit and I was born over Christmas break in Mount Pleasant,” Lookinland said.
The family returned to Los Angeles, where Lookinland started acting in commercials when he was 7 and was cast as Bobby Brady when he was 8. He moved to the state where he was born “because of my family roots and because I sort of wanted to get out of L.A. when I graduated from high school.”
“Salt Lake, for me, was kind of a known quantity,” Lookinland said. “Back in 1978, it was pretty mellow and I liked that. Plus, Snowbird was my favorite ski resort. It still is. And so I pulled up stakes and moved to Utah when I was 17. And I’ve been there permanently since I was about 20.”
He worked on film crews as a camera operator for about 20 years and acted every once in a while, mostly in Brady-related projects, “but I haven’t really been in the film industry very much for quite a long time.”
When he was pitched a project that sounded interesting, he would “call one of my fellow sibling cast members and say, ‘Hey, can I borrow your agent for this job?’” But those were occasional gigs. Lookinland went into business for himself.
“I make concrete now for a living. Architectural concrete — countertops and things,” he said. He owns Just Add Water Custom Concrete in Midvale, which you can check out in one of HGTV’s “Back Home with the Bradys” videos — and Lookinland has mixed feelings about that.
“We were plugging my concrete business pretty hard. And halfway through I was thinking, ‘Man, I don’t know about this, because what I really want do is retire,’” he said with a laugh. “Now it’s going to boom.”
HGTV execs say they’re “making plans” for the house, but they’re not saying what those plans are. You’re going to have to content yourself to watching all this on TV, because the home is in a residential area that’s not zoned for businesses and can’t be opened as a tourist attraction.
But, as far as Lookinland is concerned, “A Very Brady Renovation” captures the spirit of the original series.
“I think the whole Brady theme that’s the heart of the show — the good-hearted feel that the show had — is a match to the good heart and feel that HGTV brings to all their shows,” he said.