Baby boomers best remember Florence Henderson as one of America’s favorite TV moms: Carol Brady on the popular 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch. But it’s been more than 30 years since the beloved family comedy ceased production, and Henderson, 73, still is going strong.
She claims her willingness to remain flexible has allowed her to keep moving her career forward for more than 50 years.
“It takes passion and desire, loving what you do, and some humility, because if the business changes, you have to change with it,” she explains.
Henderson’s extensive career includes acting, singing and serving as a spokeswoman for products such as Wesson Oil and Polident. Her latest incarnation is as the co-host—along with Meshach Taylor, known for his role on Designing Women—of Living Live!, a talk show that airs weekdays on DirecTV’s Retirement Living network. The new program, Henderson explains, encourages baby boomers to make the best of their retirement years, to enjoy their lives, keep learning, keep growing and keep having fun—just as she has done.
“If I experience something and it makes me feel better, or has inspired me to change my life, I love to share that with people,” she says. “That is how I have lived my life, so this show is a perfect fit for me.”
Henderson, the daughter of an Indiana sharecropper father and a homemaker mother, receives stacks of mail each week from fans of The Brady Bunch, which has aired nonstop in syndication since it finished its prime-time run on ABC in 1974. When she bumps into fans, many of them ask the actress, who so convincingly portrayed one of TV’s most reassuring moms, for a motherly hug.
“They are all really nice, responsible people, so it is nice to know you had some effect on someone, and receive so much affection for that simple, sweet show,” says Henderson, whose Brady Bunch character won a 2006 TV Guide/Bravo poll as the TV mom that most shaped viewers’ perceptions of a housewife. She got 45 percent of the vote, beating out June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) and Shirley Partridge (The Partridge Family).
Henderson recently performed a one-woman show about her life and career, All the Lives of Me, in New York. Now living in Los Angeles, where Living Live! tapes, she hopes to find time to showcase the performance on the new series. And after a 22-year lapse, she has been approached by Wesson Oil to reinstate her promotional connection with the product.
“I love to take risks,” says Henderson, who worked as a therapist—she is a licensed hypnotherapist—on the 2006 season of the “celebreality” series Surreal Life for just that reason.
“I love to be funny, I love to make people laugh and that is what I do,” she adds. “I think if you make people smile or laugh, they listen to you maybe just a little better than if you are serious all the time.