Rare and Exclusive Interview with Writer/Producer of ‘The Brady Bunch,’ ‘Gilligan’s Island’ & More: Lloyd Schwartz
Lloyd Schwartz rarely does any interviews so we were thrilled that he agreed to chat with us. He worked with his father, Sherwood Schwartz for many years on beloved shows such as Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch and later worked on his own as a writer and producer. He was an executive at ABC and has had a long and successful career. Currently, he focuses on theater. He and his wife, Barbara, founded and Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles at Theatre West which has been presenting plays and musicals for children for over 35 years. They’ve entertained over 350,000 theatergoers in that time.
His most recent stage production is a musical, The Right is Ours!, the story of the close friendship between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and the impact of that relationship on the suffragette movement. It is currently playing at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. Now, let’s get into the interview. Thank you to Lloyd for answering our questions!
What has been your favorite project to work on in both TV and theater?
That’s an easy question: Whichever one I am working on at the moment is my favorite project. That’s not a flippant answer. I love whatever I am doing at the time. Currently, The Right is Ours!, a musical about the friendship between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the women’s suffrage movement which is playing at the Sierra Madre Playhouse is my new favorite.
Are you doing anything to commemorate ‘Gilligan’s Island’ turning 60 this year?
Gilligan is controlled by Warner Brothers. We have ideas for a feature film, but with the strike, we can’t even discuss them with the studio. After that… and if we hurry… we could get out a movie for the 60th anniversary. Dad would have loved that. Gilligan’s Island: The Musical for the Stage does play around the country.
Any special memories from working on ‘The Brady Bunch?’
The Brady Bunch was the series where I spent 5 wonderful years. “Memories?” I think it was just getting the kids ready for episodes. Each episode featured one of the kids, and I would grab a meal at their homes and talk about the show. Those one-on-one moments were special. I wasn’t much older than they were, so I was kind of an uncle, and we bonded that way… and it’s still that way today.
What was it like working with your father?
It was unusual, to say the least. On the set, I would always call him “Sherwood” rather than “Dad.” For most of the filming, he would be in the office working on scripts, and he left the filming to me to supervise. He trusted me… and because of our close father/son communication… I pretty well knew what he wanted. Many of the episodes were drawn from our own family, and I would present the kids’ point of view. Later, we became a father/son producing team, and we were equal. It led to disagreements that we would always settle amicably since we both knew that our differing opinions were always for the betterment of the show. I truly loved working with him. Later, when I worked with other well-known producers, I realized that my father was the best. That was an unexpected revelation.
Did you ever take anything from the set of a show?
No. I probably should have since Brady memorabilia is worth a lot. Honestly, it never dawned on me to take anything. Wait: On The Brady Bunch in the White House, I took the American flag tie that Gary Cole wore.
Who was the most interesting person you’ve met from a nostalgic show or movie?
Vincent Price when he did the Hawaiian episodes of The Brady Bunch. He was a real gentleman and a raconteur filled with stories. I wrote an episode of The Love Boat that Lillian Gish was in, and she told me stories about “Mr. Griffith” and “Mr. De Mille.” She was ninety-six at the time and sharp as a tack. She did some rewrites of my script and made it better.
Can you tell us about your most recent stage production?
I have always been fascinated with the impact of friendship on one’s life and I have always written history plays. The remarkable friendship between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony lent itself to a musical. I reached out to Adryan Russ with whom I had written one of our children’s musicals, and she loved the idea. I had worked at the beautiful Sierra Madre Playhouse where two of my history plays were presented, and they agreed to present the world premiere. I asked Kay Cole to choreograph. We cast it, rehearsed, it, opened and are now in our third week. It’s going very well. The show covers the beginning of their friendship and passion for women getting the right to vote and follows them until their deaths. It’s touching, dramatic, and often funny…. as most friendships are. There are three other characters who are a kind of Greek chorus who become Suffragists, cops, kids, and friends along the way. The actors are gifted both as actors and singers, and it is a pleasure to see how they have inhabited the roles. I am hoping this is just the first of many productions since the subject matter is relevant today.
How did you and your wife start the Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles?
My wife, Barbara Mallory, began acting at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre. Then after she moved out to Los Angeles and we got married and started a family, we took our three-year-old Andy to some children’s theatre. She wasn’t happy with what we saw. She had her own ideas and asked me to write a children’s musical, so I wrote our version of Little Red Riding Hood, and we got our friends involved and we put it on in a park near our house. One of Barbara’s friends heard about it. They were both members of Theatre West. Theatre West asked us to put on the play there. Well, that was forty years ago. Now, there are 19 plays, and our grandsons come to them.
It seems as though you have a love of history, what would you say inspired that?
Emerson said, “There is no such thing as history; there is only biography.” I love knowing the real story of the real people behind what happened. That curiosity began with the assassination of John Kennedy. Articles kept comparing President Kennedy’s killing to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I realized I didn’t know much about that, and I began reading about it. That led to my writing a mini-series called The Brothers Booth. (That was never made). That turned into my first historical play An Evening with John Wilkes Booth. I’ve written several historical projects since then.
What do you like to do in your spare time or do you work with any special causes or charities?
I play tennis, I follow the Dodgers, and root for UCLA sports. Also, Barbara and I travel and go to our grandsons’ various Little League, soccer and basketball games. I am proud to say that Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles” presents many of our plays for charity groups and as benefits. Especially, we have a real impact on autistic kids. Also, we do field trips for local schools and have even translated two of our plays into Spanish for the Latino community.