Fans of the Brady Bunch will undoubtedly be familiar with Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady throughout the classic series’ run. However, unlike some of his costars, who continued to pursue careers in Hollywood after the show ended, Mike left the business, returning only occasionally to play Bobby in Brady Bunch related productions. In this video, we’re taking a look at why he decided not to pursue a long term career in acting, as well as what he’s been up to since the classic sitcom ended! So stick around, as Facts Verse presents: Why Mike Lookinland Left Hollywood Forever After the Brady Bunch!
Mike’s Early Years
Mike Lookinland was one of those adorable kids whose looks and demeanor were ideal to light up the screen as a child actor. He brought a cuteness and earnest vibe to his role as Bobby Brady that provided essential chemistry with the other child actors on the show, as well as the adults. Along with the other, stellar child actors, Mike’s on screen presence was a big reason why the show worked so well.
He was born in Mount Pleasant, Utah in 1960. Though technically his parents lived in Los Angeles, and happened to be visiting some family in Utah when Michael was born. So he was raised in the LA area, which made it easier for him to get work as a child actor. He found a ton of success early on in the world of commercials, including spots for Band-Aids, Cheerios, and various toy companies. By the time the Brady Bunch began, he’d already been in more than 30 commercials. So, while he was no stranger to being on a set, he didn’t have experience shooting for more than a day or two for each project. Yet at the time, he was actually offered roles on two different shows. He was cast in a show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” as the primary kid, Eddie. But that role came about at the same time as Bobby Brady. Mike’s parents chose The Brady Bunch because they were excited about the prospect of there being other kids on set. Of course, in retrospect this was a very wise decision. Interestingly enough, Mike was a red headed kid with freckles. He even noted in an interview later in life that if you were red headed and had freckles in those days, you could get a ton of work. But he said that, oddly enough, they needed him to be darker haired for the show, so it was constantly dyed to match the hair color of his siblings and his dad, and straightened out as well. Fortunately, by the time the last couple of seasons rolled around, audiences were so used to seeing Mike as part of the family that he was allowed to stop dying his hair and letting his natural color show.
After The Show Ended
Mike was a working actor for 6 years in a row while on the show, and the Brady Bunch was a monster hit. So it seemed as if he would be able to keep working as an actor for a long time. And he started quickly out of the gates, appearing in the cult classic disaster movie, The Towering Inferno. The film starred Paul Newman and Jennifer Jones, and was one of several hit movies in the ‘disaster’ genre that did well in the mid to late 70s. But after that, things changed. And, oddly enough, not necessarily because Hollywood didn’t want to cast Mike. In fact, he was being recruited to play a part in the next big series they were casting, Swiss Family Robinson. But, simply put, Mike was burned out. He had spent most of his childhood years on the set of a sitcom, unable to really meet kids his age or socialize like a normal kid. And then the filming of The Towering Inferno was an intense, four month process that took a lot out of him.
In an interview that he and the other Brady cast members did for the DVD extras on “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour,” Lookinland talked about wanting to turn down the part on Swiss Family Robinson. He said that he asked his parents to tell the producers no, but that they refused. They said that if he wanted to make that decision, he’d have to tell them himself. At that point, Mike was back in regular school, and was looking forward to a ski trip that his eighth grade class was about to take. Plus, as he pointed out in the interview for the DVD, he hadn’t had a vacation in 6 years. So the trip had taken on a special importance for him. Per his parents’ wishes, he got on the phone with the producer and told him he didn’t want the part.
Don’t Say No To Hollywood
However, this move proved to be a lot more consequential than he realized at the time. In that same interview, Mike talked of the lesson he learned about Hollywood in that time. He realized that in turning down the role in Swiss Family Robinson, he was sending a signal to the powers that be in Hollywood that he was somehow unreliable, or perhaps not that interested in continuing to work as an actor. And perhaps at the time, this would have sounded like a fine option. He clearly expressed being fatigued from constant work, and wanted to be able to live a ‘normal’ childhood to some extent. But at the same time, it’s a tough break for something you do as an eighth grader to ruin your chances of future work. Mike concluded by saying that if you want to get work in Hollywood, then you can’t turn down work. He said that the calls completely stopped coming after he turned down the Swiss Family Robinson role.
Mike Switches Sides
After years of being in front of the camera, Mike decided he’d try his hand behind it. But first, he enrolled at the university of Utah. While there, he studied in their film department, learning about the technical aspects of what he’d been seeing around him throughout this childhood. He managed to join the DGA, which is the Director’s Guild of America, and was on a path towards directing. But ultimately he decided that being a cameraman was more in line with what he wanted. So he began his career as a camera operator, one that lasted him about 20 years. It was a way to still remain in the Hollywood sphere, without dealing with all the mayhem that comes with being an actor.
Mike Pivots Again
After establishing himself as a go to cameraman in town, Mike suddenly decided to shift gears. He says that one afternoon his wife came home and had a book from the library with her. It was called ‘How to Make Concrete Countertops.’ For some reason, when Mike saw the book, he was moved. He told her right then and there that he was planning to quit his job as a cameraman, and pursue a career in making concrete countertops. And while it might have seemed like an odd thing to say, he was being serious. He set about starting a company that, according to him, create fancy household structures from concrete. They make artistic countertops, outdoor kitches, and, naturally, countertops too. He’s been running his small business every since, and hasn’t looked back. He said that after having realized that everything in Hollywood is fairly fake, he became drawn to making “real” things that were tangible and that would stand the test of time.
Mike’s Trouble With Alcohol
One tricky thing Mike experienced from growing up on set was that he was sheltered from a lot of life’s vices. He was protected from things like partying and alcohol when he was in his tten years. But this meant that he ended up trying to make up for lost time in his 20’s. In an interview featured in “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” he talked about loving alcohol in those days. But sadly, he was unable to drink in moderation. In 1997, Mike drove home from work as a cameraman and crashed his car, rolling it over and garnering a slew of cuts and bruises. He was tested by police, and his blood alcohol level was three times the legal state limit. After being treated in the hospital, he was arrested and released on bail. He was forced to undergo a rehab program by the courts. But that incident served as a ket moment in his life. He immediately went about becoming sober, and hasn’t had a drink since.
Today Mike lives a happy life with this wife, who was his high school sweetheart. They have two boys together, and both of them are pursuing careers in acting, just like their dad did once upon a time.
Occasionally over the years he’s agreed to reprise his role of Bobby Brady for various specials, and will sometimes get together for filmed Brady reunions. For example, in he acted in the TV movies, The Brady Bunch Meets ABC Saturday Superstars, The Brady Girls Get Married, and A Very Brady Christmas. He was also in the 1990 TV series, The Bradys. He even joined the HGTV series A Very Brady Renovation as recently as 2019.
Mike Lookinland was a hugely successful child actor, and will always be remembered for his role on The Brady Bunch. And while things didn’t turn out for him as an actor, he was able to spend a lot of time in the business after the show ended as a cameraman, and now is even happier running his own small business.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Who was your favorite character from the Brady Bunch? Let us know in the comments section below!