Before Florence Henderson came along, this is the actress they'd already cast as Mrs. Brady
Joyce Bulifant says there's no hard feelings, which only makes her more perfect for the part!
In the 1970s, Joyce Bulifant was best-known as Marie Slaughter, the wife of Murray Slaughter, Mary Tyler Moore's coworker on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But before she accepted that recurring part, she'd already signed all the papers to become a totally different TV wife who we all know and love: Carol Brady.
In a recent interview with Fox News, Bulifant said she was in the middle of trying on costumes for the part when she started getting the sense from just about everybody involved in production on The Brady Bunch, including series creator Sherwood Schwartz, that something was amiss. That's when she found out that the studio wanted to replace her at the last minute with Florence Henderson, who was becoming more established as an onscreen darling - becoming the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show after an award-winning period of time on Broadway - and who had just become available for the part. Bulifant said:
“I just looked at them. I had signed a seven-year contract! The little girls were cast to look like me. Sherwood was devastated because the show had a whole new meaning than what he was looking for."
For what it's worth, Bulifant and Schwartz did end up working together on Big John, Little John when the actress joined that cast in 1976 and Schwartz was a producer on the show, but the series ended after a single season. She also had a guest part on Harper Valley P.T.A.
Apparently, casting Henderson didn't just replace the face of Mrs. Brady, but it changed the entire nature of the famous TV mom, who would've been much different if Bulifant had brought the character to life. In the same interview, Bulifant insisted there were no hard feelings, saying, “I was very fond of Florence and she was a lovely lady. And the show was very successful… Everything turned out the way it’s supposed to.”
So while Bulifant may not have been cast as Mrs. Brady in the end, she seems like she'd fit right in with the noble Brady clan.