For the millions of us raised on a steady diet of reruns, Florence Henderson
, aka Carol Brady, will forever be our surrogate mom. Even the B-list celebrities trapped on the new edition of VH1's The Surreal Life
(Sundays at 9 pm/ET) got all gooey the minute she walked through the door. But Henderson isn't there to mother them. A trained hypnotherapist, she signed on as the house's on-call counselor, and judging from the drama of the previous seasons — not to mention the tempestuous pasts (sex changes, drugs and rock 'n' roll) of the current cast — Dr. Flo's guidance will be sorely needed.
TVGuide.com: Hello, Florence? Are you there?
Florence Henderson: Sorry, I'm having trouble with this speakerphone. [Fumbling sounds] Hello? You there?
TVGuide.com: Yup, still here. Modern technology confounds you, huh?
Henderson: This is a strange hotel. Everything's hard to figure out. I need a magic wand just to get the TVs to work!
TVGuide.com: Was The Surreal Life house more user-friendly?
Henderson: Well, I didn't live in the asylum. I just went there every day.
TVGuide.com: Was it that bad?
Henderson: It was a real challenge. I took my role on the show very seriously. I needed to win everybody's trust and yet not be a pushover.
TVGuide.com: Did your appearance last year on My Fair Brady help you land the Surreal Life gig?
Henderson: Absolutely. I counseled [former Surreal Lifers] Chris [Knight] and Adrianne [Curry] for about three hours. VH1 saw the whole thing and asked if I would consider coming on the show. At first I said no. I had never seen The Surreal Life but I had heard things about it. So I called my daughter and said, "What do you think?" She said, "Mom, it's like watching a train wreck. I never miss it." People really seem to love it.
TVGuide.com: I've watched every single season and I'm particularly excited about this one.
Henderson: It's going to be totally different [than the others]. I think you're going to be totally surprised.
TVGuide.com: Really? Any spoilers you'd care to share?
Henderson: Let's just say that the ones you think are going to go off the deep end don't, and the ones that you think might be halfway normal prove otherwise.
TVGuide.com: I don't think there's one person in that house whom I'd call even halfway normal.
Henderson: [Laughs] Don't include me in that!
TVGuide.com: How did you get along with the cast?
Henderson: I personally was so fond of C.C. Deville. And Alexis [Arquette] and Steve Harwell are the top of the line.
TVGuide.com: And the others?
Henderson: For some reason, Tawny [Kitaen] was very competitive with me.
TVGuide.com: Maybe because you're a woman?
Henderson: That could be it.
TVGuide.com: Actually, I was thinking of putting it a little more crassly, but... I can't.
Henderson: Oh, tell me.
TVGuide.com: I was going to say she was competitive with you because you have a vagina. I can't believe I just said that to Mrs. Brady! I'm going to hell!
Henderson: [Laughs] No, no you're not. I'll see to that.
TVGuide.com: So I'm guessing that Tawny's the one who goes off the deep end?
Henderson: You're kind of psychic.
TVGuide.com: Actually, all I had to do was watch the promos. They make her look really scary.
Henderson: Well she is. Her behavior is very incongruent. You never know which Tawny is going to show up [on any given day]. She was a big challenge. As was little Andrea Lowell, the Playmate/adult star/whatever.
TVGuide.com: You really seem to disapprove of people posing nude.
Henderson: I can understand it if there is a reason other than just showing off your body — for example, if you're acting. But just to turn people on... for me, I wouldn't want that as a career. Andrea has a lot more potential than that.
TVGuide.com: Have you kept in touch with anyone since Surreal Life wrapped?
Henderson: I've talked to C.C. He's a brilliant musician. He had his guitar there and he would play classical music on it... Vivaldi and Mozart. If he weren't so haunted, I think he would be a bigger star than he is.
TVGuide.com: You seem to be drawn to musicians. I remember the time you and Marilyn Manson bonded on Politically Incorrect.
Henderson: He's another one I didn't judge by his outward appearance and he turned out to be really, really smart.
TVGuide.com: Didn't he invite you to the prom?
Henderson: He did. But we never ended up going.
TVGuide.com: I guess you want to shy away from controversial dates after that time you took out your eldest TV son, Barry Williams.
Henderson: Oh, please. I'm so sick of that story.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of Barry, what do you think of his upcoming guest spot on That '70s Show, with Chris Knight?
Henderson: I didn't know they were going to be on. What are they doing?
TVGuide.com: Playing a gay couple.
Henderson: [After a moment of silence] They should have called me first.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any advice for them?
Henderson: I just hope they can bring some humor to it.
TVGuide.com: To the roles or to that sitcom?
Henderson: Maybe a little bit of both.
TVGuide.com: A poll conducted by TV Guide and Bravo found that your signature character, Carol Brady, is the TV mom that "most defines the quintessential housewife." You even beat out Mrs. Cleaver. How do you feel about being so identified with that one role?
Henderson: I'm thrilled. I receive so much affection, and the question I'm asked most often is, "Can I have a hug?" I bet I've hugged five million people. And it's always my pleasure.
TVGuide.com: But even so, do you long to shatter that image?
Henderson: Well, you know what I am campaigning for now? I think it would be neat if I played Felicity Huffman's mother on Desperate Housewives. Don't you think that would be fun?
TVGuide.com: Absolutely! Maybe we should launch an online petition.
Henderson: Whatever you could do would be great.
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