ROBBIE RIST: Oliver's Song
The blonde-haired, spectacle-wearing "Cousin Oliver", whose parents leave him with his "Aunt Carol" and "Uncle Mike", was a very important member of "The Brady Bunch" clan. Progressive and groundbreaking, "Oliver" is the only human being to have ever spoken the word "Sex" in the course of the series. And, he delivers the very last line in the final episode: "Gosh, it was only a suggestion."
The Brady’s rambunctious little cuz was played by the multi-talented Robbie Rist, who hasn’t stopped working since "Bunch" went off the air – from appearances on shows like "What’s Happening", "CHiPS", and "Galactica 1980" (as the original "Dr. Zee"); voice-over gigs including the original three "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" flicks (the voice of "Michelangelo"); and he’s still working hard: acting, producing, and making music, lots and lots of music.
So not only is Robbie Rist one of the few child actors who didn’t end up jobless, homeless, or criminally insane, he’s something quite rare in show business: a former child star success story.
ROBBIE RIST INTERVIEW
How old you were when you got the role as "Cousin Oliver" in the Brady Bunch?
Had you done any work before "The Brady Bunch"?
Quite a bit, actually. By the time I did Bradys I had racked up over 100 commercials and dozens of TV appearances (among them working with Jonathan Winters, John Denver, Mickey Rooney....lots of people).
Were there many other kids up for that part as "Cousin Oliver"?
I was told that 500 kids read for it. They were grownups, why would they lie to me?
If you can write a line (the first thing you can think of) after each name:
||Florence Henderson… A licensed hypnotherapist.
||Robert Reed… Gifted Shakesperean (spelling?) actor.
||Barry Williams… The P.T. Barnum of "The Brady Bunch".
||Mike Lookinland… Mormon Deadhead Cameraman (sounds like the name of some indie band).
||Christopher Knight… Well, after all was said and done, he turned out to be the Brady that enjoyed the most (or at least most money making) post-Brady success, didn't he?
||Susan Olsen… Awesome. Simply awesome.
||Eve Plumb… The coolest Brady (if only for her stance on NOT talking about the Brady Bunch. Stick it to 'em, Eve!).
||Maureen McCormick… Not an altogether bad singer.
||Ann Davis… One of the last of that wonderful breed of human: The Character Actor.
What were the filming schedules like for The Brady Bunch?
Same as most series. Get there at seven or 8. Work 'til 5 or 6. By the time I got on the show it was a well-oiled machine.
Was the pie fight episode fun? How many takes did that fight take?
Of COURSE it was fun. I was NINE! The master was one take. Then they shot coverage for a while. God, it was so sticky.
Were you popular in high school from all your TV work?
Not really. My crowd was made up of people who fell between the cracks of the clique system. So, the smartest of the school geniuses (who none of the other geniuses wanted to hang out with), a burnout, me, some other fringe types......it was like that scene in Blazing Saddles, "They wouldn't let us join their wagon train so we formed our own".
Were you asked to make any appearances on the ill-fated BRADY BUNCH VARIETY SHOW (BRADY BUNCH HOUR)?
No. I think the wisdom among the Brady higher-ups is my character was a network decision, thus making it not REALLY part of the show. I'm cool with that.
What was your reaction to Cousin Oliver’s cameo in the theatrical BRADY BUNCH SEQUEL (he's run over by a car while crossing the street at the end of the film)?
Pretty darned funny.
You have done a lot of voice overs including the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" – do you enjoy that kind of work better than acting in person?
It's all work to me. I started doing voice-over because I was getting fewer on-camera roles. I just drift where the work takes me. At the end of the day, I just like MAKING stuff. My whole life is about art. I have been an actor, writer, director, producer, musician, recording engineer....you name it. I just like being creative.
Were you on the set of "Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles" or did you just do post-production studio voice-over work?
The movie was done by the time the voice over guys were called in. That's why they got us so cheap.
Have you seen the new C.G.I. "Ninja Turtle" movie?
No, haven't seen it yet. It didn't seem to garner much of an audience from Turtlefiles that I heard about. Has it gained a better reputation of late?
A friend of mine was in the car that you raced in the Tony Danza film "She’s Out of Control"? Any particular recollections of that shoot?
That's hilarious! What is HE up to these days? I mostly remember hanging out with Amy Dolenz some of the other actors on a day off. I had a HUGE crush on her. She happens to be in one of my favorite films ever, "Ticks"! I also ended up dating someone I met on that shoot.
Any recollections about the "What’s Happening" episode in which your character is trying out for the hamburger commercial (I loved your performance in that one)?
Thanks. Glad you like it. I got to work with Larry White AND Dick Van Patten on that one. It was like a TV character-actor POWERHOUSE!!!!! There are no actors like that anymore. People on TV got too......I dunno.....scrubbed up and pretty. I also had no idea who Strasberg was at that point. (Robbie’s character on this episode is a child actor who claims to have studies the Lee Strasberg method).
The new "Battlestar Galactica 1980" is out on DVD where you played the child genius "Dr. Zee" in the two-part pilot: Were you asked to do anything for a special feature? Have you attended any Battlestar conventions?
No one has asked me to do anything with "Battlestar". I think I have been relegated to the dustbin of history on that one.
Did you ever see Robert Reed, your "Uncle Mike", on the set of GALACTICA 1980?
I don't think we ran into each other on that gig but he played my dad in an episode (post-Brady) of a show called LUCAN. It starred Kevin Brophy and was about a man who was raised by wolves. I'm serious. That was the premise.
On "Galactica 1980", you appeared in the two-part pilot as "Dr. Zee", and then Patrick Stuart was "Zee" during the rest of the series (six episodes)… How did you learn about the replacement?
I think I learned they replaced me by watching the show. Show business is a cruel mistress. I have no idea why they changed Zee's. Maybe I just didn't cut it.
How was it working with Lorne Greene ("Commander Adama")?
My experience has always been that, the more work and the more established the actor, the cooler they are. The a--holes always tended to be those on the way up who were insecure about their place in the industry.
Had you been a fan of the show "Battlestar Galactica" before "Galactica 1980"?
I am a first generation part of the STAR WARS generation. Of course I loved GALACTICA. I grew weary of it in short order as it seemed that one Cylon ship was always crossing my screen from left to right before it was hit by a human's guns. I guess making new FX shots was too expensive.
What was your favorite band growing up?
I have always been pretty music obsessive so I liked a LOT of stuff. But I have always had a soft spot for a certain kind of melodic, poppy song. The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, Queen, Elvis Costello......believe me; you don't have enough room on your site for me to talk music...
What band most influenced you to get into music?
It's goofy but I saw the Knack play at the Troubadour in El Lay about six months before they got signed. I had no idea who they were. My piano teacher took me because he had heard some buzz about them. From the moment they hit the first note, I just sat there dumbfounded thinking 'I wanna do THAT'! Been a power pop fan ever since. I keep trying to convince the singer to let me play drums with them.
What were some names of the bands you played it (and what instruments did you play)?
I play guitar, bass, drums, keys, mandolin and banjo (I am, however, a VERY crappy banjo player). I have played with a LOT of bands. Sometimes as a fill-in, sometimes a permanent member. I had three records out with a band called Wonderboy (http://www.myspace.com/128335037) and I played for 10 years in a band called The Andersons (www.theandersons.com).
What band are you in now?
I play with a few people now. I play with the singer from an 80s band called Translator. His name is Steve Barton, I play drums as well as produced and did some engineering on his last rekkid (www.myspace.com/stevebartonmusic), I play with a guy named Jeff Caudill who was in a band called Gameface that was one of the proto-emo bands of the mid nineties. He's doing a more Americana thing now (www.myspace.com/jeffcaudill). I also play with Nice Guy Eddie (http://www.myspace.com/niceguyeddieband) and whoever else wants to hire me as musician. I am also producing a lot of rekkids as well (www.myspace.com/suzyandlosquattro, www.myspace.com/kingsizemaybe, www.myspace.com/slapdashus). I have also made a lateral move into film production as well. I was producer, score writer, music supervisor, on-set sound guy and even actor on a low budget horror film that just got released on DVD through Invincible Pictures called Stump The Band (www.stumptheband.com). I heartily encourage all of your readers to purchase a copy.
What kinds of music do you listen to now (and/or since the nineties)?
I listen to a lot of stuff still. Top 40 radio is mostly a joke but there are great artists out there like Robbie Fulks, The Old 97s, Fountains Of Wayne, Panic At The Disco......eek....once again......not enough room…
Which was your favorite "CHiPS" episode that you appeared in?
I thought the one where I took LSD was pretty amusing...considering I had had no experience with the drug at the time I did the show.....guess that's why they call it acting.
You produced the movie "Stump the Band" – what drew you into movie production?
My friend Bill Holmes, who I knew from the voice world, and myself were feeling in a bit of a rut. The voice business was in something of a downturn in the post 9/11 world and, while we were doing okay financially teaching voice over and making people's demos (and me producing bands as well), we were talking one day at lunch about doing some kind of creative project. It just so happened that I had a script that a friend had written for me 5 years before for an aborted low budget movie deal (someone named Dave Sterling who has a company called Sterling Movie Factory was gonna give me 10,000 dollars and loan me a camera and I was gonna go make a horror film......for whatever reason it never happened). I told Bill the basic premise and he thought it was funny enough of an idea but the original screenplay was too.....well.....gruesome for his taste so he called in another friend of ours, Jojo Henrickson. Jo rewrote the script, I took some money out of my house and we went to Illinois to chase cute women around the woods with axes for three weeks. After winning a bunch of awards from some movie festivals, we ran into someone from Invincible Films in Philadelphia who picked it up for distribution and now it's available at Amazon, Netflix and a whole mess of other DVD outlets. For the nine dollars that we spent making it, I am VERY proud of what we did. We even got one of the stars of Terminator 2 (Danny Cooksey) and one of the actors from Scorcese's Casino (Carl Ciarfalio) to be in it.
Do you have any favorite particular episode of "The Brady Bunch"?
Not really. I like 'em all. I am so f---ing cute in all of them!
As a kid before you were on the last season of "The Brady Bunch", were you a fan of the show?
I was more of a 6 Million Dollar Man guy.
Any crushes on "Marcia", "Jan" or "Cindy"?
Definitely Cindy. But only after the show was cancelled.
Seen any "Brady kids" lately?
I seem to see Susan Olsen with some frequency these days.
Anything to say to kids thinking of going into show business?
Not to the kids but to the parents. They have the power to turn out a well formed adult (Helen Hunt) or a complete mess (Lindsay Lohan). Which parent do you want to be? And don't let me catch you screwing it up because I will smack you in the head personally.
Robbie Rist Offical Site www.robbierist.com.
Robbie's movie site www.stumptheband.com.
Interview by James M. Tate
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