As Hollywood returns to normalcy and production returns amid COVID protocols still in place, Variety was invited for an exclusive set visit to “Dragging the Classics: The Brady Bunch.”
The special, which airs June 30 Paramount Plus, was filmed at Castle Studios in Burbank. Audiences will see cultural history as two phenomenons come together: queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and original cast members from “The Brady Bunch.” The iconic merger will recreate the famous “Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?” episode from Season 2.
The Brady Bunch returning cast members include Barry Williams (Greg Brady on the show, but will play Mike Brady), Christopher Knight (Peter Brady), Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady), Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) and Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady).
In this iteration, Eve Plumb will play “Lucy” and Susan Olsen will play “Margie,” while Drag Race performers Kylie Sonique Love will play Jan, Kandy Muse stars as Cindy, Shea Couleé stars as Marcia, Bianca Del Rio is Carol, BenDeLaCreme is Greg, and Nina West will be Alice. Both Michelle Visage and RuPaul will make appearances during the episode.
Executive producer for World of Wonder Randy Barbato said the timing of releasing this special during Pride Month was important. “For so long, “The Brady Bunch” has represented the idyllic aspirational mixed family, but by mixing the stars of the original cast with the stars of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” we have been able to remind folks of the true meaning and value of family. He added, “It’s also thrilling for us to have the opportunity to showcase the talents of so many of the Drag Race girls, and to see their work alongside iconic actors! Hopefully, this project will help encourage folks to create even more opportunities for artists who don’t always get called upon.”
Lynda Tarryk directed the cast using virtual production technology — against a green screen. Between takes, the cast came in — masked, face-shielded, fully vaccinated, COVID tested — to talk about the importance of this episode, which drops just in time to end Pride Month with a bang. They also shared their ideas for future “Dragging the Classics” episodes. World of Wonder production company: your next scripted mission has been set.
What does it mean to be a part of this incredible cultural phenomenon that is “The Brady Bunch” meets “Drag Race”?
Shea Couleé: What’s important is the fact that these are two cultural phenomenons from two different generations. I’m hopeful for younger fans of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” who may or may not be familiar with “The Brady Bunch,” to get really excited over this.
I love seeing Black and brown people inserted into this narrative and to be playing Marcia Brady, who visually if we look at the two of us, are two complete opposites. It’s just so exciting that I get to live out my full Marcia Brady. Who would not want to play her? She’s the ultimate cool girl.
Nina West: I grew up watching “The Brady Bunch,” and I would come home – and it was in syndication – and watch it with my two older sisters. It was this hyper-romantic idealized way. Here’s a family that has divorced kids, divorced parents and a blended family. And now, here we are, with these cultural icons to recreate this episode that is being tied to diversity, pride and authenticity, and loving your true authentic self.
We’re saying, it’s a family that is blended, multicultural and fabulous. It’s about how we celebrate and lift up what a real family in this country looks like.
This show had a huge cultural impact on all of us. The language that we speak in this country and phrases came from this show that we still use today. And “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is 100% the same thing. It’s not just a television show, this is a cultural moment.
Bianca Del Rio: There’s a huge fan base for “Drag Race” and there’s a huge fan base for “The Brady Bunch.” You’ve got two fan groups that are going to join together to get witness this. I’m so happy to be a part of it.
It’s a great opportunity for some of us that are performers that do more than the drag race showcases. This is acting, and a lot of lip-syncing and drag racer looks where this is acting and I’m excited for people to see us do that.
I remember RuPaul saying drag would never mainstream and she needs to take that back because of the opportunities that have come up in television and film, and for queer people in general. It’s this amazing explosion, and it just happens to be Pride Month, which is extra gay. The fact that we’re kind of coming out of this dark time, I think it’s gonna be an amazing renaissance of life.
BenDeLaCreme: It’s amazing to be continuing — to be a part of expanding what people’s idea of what drag can be, what it can reach and what it can touch. It’s amazing to show how the drag and queer communities are not separate from all these other cultural touchstones.
Barry Williams: If we break down what “The Brady Bunch” is about, it’s about communication, getting along, trust and acceptance, and I think those things line up with RuPaul’s audience.
It’s one of the few shows that has crossed all the lines: We’ve crossed racial lines, political lines, generational lines, and we have crossed gender lines. And now, we’ve expanded that audience in a heartfelt way retaining the values and qualities of the original show with new characters.
Susan Olsen: Jan Brady is the patron saint of the LGBTQ community. I’ve never met a stranger who doesn’t know who she is. There’s that feeling of not being sure who she is and not being recognized for all that she is.
What has the energy been like on set?
Couleé: I’ve been so humbled and impressed by how excited the original cast is to be a part of this. It’s exciting for the Ru girls, but to see it reciprocated is just as exciting.
Do you have a moment you’re looking forward to recreating?
Couleé: Telling Jan that her wig looks awful because she’s really trying to sell that fantasy. I feel it shows Jan’s desire to separate herself from her sisters because they’re both they’re giving her sisterly advice, and she’s not having any of it.
Kandy Muse: There’s a scene where I’m with Marcia and Jan in the bedroom playing cards. Jan says, “We’ll see who they notice first,” and I say, “Me because I’m the shortest,” and that’s going to be really funny.
Del Rio: It’s very challenging because I didn’t realize that Carol Brady says a lot of the same things. It’s a lot of, “Yes, honey.” And, “Sure, sweetheart.” And, “Jan, stop Jan.” I have a lot of those lines which can really mess with my head. We’re here to accomplish three big scenes for me that happened in the kitchen. So, if I can successfully get through them without confusing the lines, I will be very happy.
Kylie Sonique Love: I love scenes when I’m with Marcia and Cindy having those sister moments. I’m also getting closer to be closer with Shea and Kandy, so that’s fun to do this together with them.
Williams: The scene where Mike says to Jan that a person doesn’t become a different person simply by putting on a wig, and she says, ‘You don’t get it.’ I’m looking forward to doing that scene.
Have you seen Nina West done up? Nina is 6 feet tall, and her hair is another eight inches. They’re all fantastic. And Kandy Muse as Cindy is simply amusing. Bianca totally channels Florence. I don’t know if Bianca is a studied fan, but there’s something in the ether about Florence that is in Bianca’s performance.
What did the Brady Bunch mean to you?
Muse: I grew up in the ‘90s, I didn’t grow up watching the videos, but even if you didn’t grow up waiting for the show, you know about the show and their movies. Even RuPaul made a cameo [In “The Brady Bunch Movie” and “A Very Brady Sequel”]. Being able to film this with the original cast members and being able to film the original intro is just so iconic.
Del Rio: It was in syndication when I saw it — I’m not that old.
What’s so funny is that I have three older sisters and a younger brother, and everybody wanted to be one of the kids, and I was always fascinated with Florence Henderson. I always was fascinated with her, her fashions, and this idea that there was this glamorous, perfect mother.
I loved the idea of that life. I love the two-story house. I loved the jack and jill bathroom. It was everything I didn’t have growing up. To me, that was the pinnacle life that I should have had as a kid.
BenDeLaCreme: I was actually a Brady fanatic. The first time I ever did drag was when I was 14 for Halloween — I went as Marcia. The connections run deep for me here.
What does it mean to be back here on set?
Olsen: I looked up at the screen and saw this gorgeous guy as Cindy and I took a picture for myself. I don’t know any other life.
Whether anybody else likes it or not, we are going to keep coming back into each other’s lives, and being with drag queens seems very natural. It’s not just makeup and lip-syncing. It’s developing a character, it’s acting and it’s art.
Eve Plumb: This is probably the most extreme version of “The Brady Bunch.” And you see, they’re showing the girls on the giant screen out there with a zoom in of my face. I’m standing there talking to Barry Williams in a Mike Brady wig and I had to take a photo because it’s a lot of fun to visit it this way.
I didn’t realize how far they were going to go with this. When they get to Lucy, who I’m playing, they glammed her up a bit and put false eyelashes on her, and the wig is extra huge. I’m wearing this dress for a 12-year-old and clearly, I’m a full-fledged woman. It’s such a fun mash-up.
What does it mean to be recreating this episode during Pride month and its message of being seen?
Couleé: The lesson we learn at the end of the episode is it’s not the wig and it’s not the hair that makes the person, it’s you. With drag queens, we learned through putting on all of this, feeling the sense of confidence and being a chameleon and taking on this other role that we can take those same things. I became much more confident being Shea, I became more outspoken and I knew how to advocate for myself. I could say, “That’s still you under that wig and makeup.”
So, in your day-to-day life, you can still carry around that confidence and energy with you. I feel that’s what Jan learns at the end of this episode that Jan is great as Jan.
Muse: We do certain things to try to fit in or try to stand out -but just be yourself.
Del Rio: The episode deals with acceptance and how Jan felt that she wanted to be a little different, and she finds her better friends like her for who she is. I think as a gay person we can all relate to that story. It’s the perfect marriage.
BenDeLaCreme: Within “The Brady Bunch,” and within the queer community, we create our own families, we create our community, which is tight-knit and intimate in the same way that the Bradys are. That’s something to aspire to — this shared love and affection.
Christopher Knight: When I first got the call, I envisioned that this was going to be sort of a dream sequence or something else like a mash-up. And it’s going to be something so special.
Did you get any tips about playing your character?
Muse: Yes, Susan Olsen told me to “be the little girl inside of you that you can be.” I’m playing this little girl who is the shortest of the sisters, and I’m the tallest in the cast, and it’s so hilarious.
Del Rio: I never thought I’d be hanging out with Greg Brady or have him playing my husband. It’s wild to be near them and they have been nothing but kind and accepting of our character and personalities. They’ve been telling us stories. I’ve asked, “Is this the wildest incarnation of the series?” and they’ve all said yes.
BenDeLaCreme: I’m playing the role of Greg and that’s pretty cool. I get to play the older brother to the two original brothers, with the actual Greg as my dad.
Barry has been so generous and warm. I was so nervous to say those lines. He’s come up to me and said, “I really like the way you’re doing Greg and putting your hands there, but actually, the wrist goes here.” And that has been amazing.
Love: Eve sat in with me, and we had a 45-minute conversation to get an idea of her experience and find out more about her character. She said she just played herself. She is an amazing actress, so I have some big shoes to fill.
Olsen: I was standing next to Nina and I said to her, “You wear her well.” He said it was such an honor. I told her that it comes through that she is wearing her with grace and style and that she is recognizing her.
This is just the beginning of Dragging the Classics. Which show needs to be dragged next?
West: “The Golden Girls” is screaming for a remake with the drag queens, but also “Who’s the Boss?” and “Laverne and Shirley,” those would be amazing to see.
Couleé: I would love “Happy Days” and “Married With Children.” If they need someone to sing the theme song, I would do it.
Muse: “Married With Children.” I’d love to do “The Nanny,” and I want to be Fran or Mr. Sheffield.
Del Rio: I loved “Bewitched” because it was dealing with magical and mystical powers. I love “Facts of Life.” Also, “Different Strokes.”
The just did reunions for “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” I love all of that, and that we’re revisiting great content from my childhood, in syndication. Disclaimer: “The youthful Bianca Del Rio sashayed in looking younger than ever.” Those shows are from my childhood.
BenDeLaCreme: There’s “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “Bewitched.” These shows have such strong, powerful and iconic female characters. I think it’s really exciting to think of being able to bring that to life through drag. I would play Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island.” Listen, I’ll play a boy one time only, and I’ll do it for the Bradys, but for the next thing, I’m going to be the most glamorous woman on the island.
Love: I really loved “Designing Women.” I’m from Georgia and I would love that. I would love a “Golden Girls” moment, and “Laverne & Shirley.” If we did “The Golden Girls,” I would play Blanche!