The 1970s' grooviest teen dream queen will be returning to America's living rooms when Celebrity Fit Club 5: Men vs. Women premieres April 22 on VH1. Not that Maureen McCormick or her many incarnations of Marcia, Marcia, Marcia ever left our Brady Bunch-lovin' hearts. After all, the kitschy kidcom loops endlessly in reruns, and its complete-series DVD set — touting a "shag carpet" cover and assorted spin-offs — hits stores today. But the 2007 Mo is about so much more than Davy Jones crushes. Still ebullient and girlishly pretty at 50, she peels back layers of "Brady perfection" to reveal the years of human heartache and loss that led to a 30-pound weight gain and her first-ever reality-TV gig. Here, she gives TVGuide.com the scoop on her life-changing celebreality experience, her candid feelings about Dustin "Screech" Diamond's foulmouthed Fit Club tirades, and her very Brady brushes with spin-off surreality.
TVGuide.com: You survived Celebrity Fit Club. How did the experience stack up to your expectations?
Maureen McCormick: It went well beyond my expectations. It had the most amazing outcome, as I met my [weight-loss] goal and flew through it. I feel 20 again!
TVGuide.com: And you sound so youthful and energized. It's hard to believe that Marcia now has a 17-year-old daughter.
McCormick: I'm 50! [She pauses, as if the reality's still sinking in] I'm 50!
TVGuide.com: Yet to most of America, you're a perpetual...
McCormick: Seventeen-year-old? I know! But that's a good thing. If you've gotta swing one way or the other, I'd rather swing on that side!
TVGuide.com: You've had a long journey. You suffered multiple heartaches in 2004 when your mom lost her battle with kidney cancer a month after your father told you he needed to put your brother Denny in a group home. It's no wonder you turned to food for solace.
McCormick: It did hit me all at once, one thing after another. It was really, really difficult. And I was an emotional eater, so if something went wrong, that was it — I would eat. I let myself go so much. My mom had been sick for a couple of years, and I had never lost anyone really close to me until she died. She was my best friend. On top of losing her, [Denny entering a group home] was the most difficult thing I've ever gone through.
TVGuide.com: Since you started gaining weight when your mom got sick, losing it while reemerging in the public spotlight on a reality show must've been a deeply emotional process. How did you end up on Fit Club?
McCormick: My mom had been hinting to me for a couple of years, "Maureen, maybe you should go on a diet," so it's funny that this whole thing happened. In fact, I didn't want to do the show when they first came to me — I had so many reservations — but my daughter said, "It's Celebrity Fit Club! You have to do it." Now I'm so thankful to her for telling me I had to do it. Honestly, the very last show was one of the most amazing days in my life. They brought in this black choir for me, and I'm telling you, I felt like I was in heaven with my mother.
TVGuide.com: Was child-star fame to blame for your developing bulimia at age 17, after The Brady Bunch ended and you returned to public high school?
McCormick: No, it was peer pressure for me. I was with some girls and we were eating ice cream and they said, "Hey, do you know what you can do?" and I was like, "What?" So it was like this activity that we did as a group. That started it.
TVGuide.com: By your mid-twenties, the bulimia had ended. Did you seek treatment?
McCormick: I sought spiritual treatment, and I just gave it all up. [After a brief pause, McCormick returns to the phone] My daughter just walked in from school and wrote me a note that said, "Mom, you look so beautiful." Is that amazing or what? I'm so in love with her.
TVGuide.com: If she wants to be an actress or a singer like Mom, can you protect her from all the pitfalls?
McCormick: There are [pitfalls] to everything, and I've been through it all. So if that's what she wants to do, then I say, "Great," and I'll help her however I can.
TVGuide.com: How did your Fit Club cast mates react to you? Did Kimberley Locke (American Idol), ['80s pop star] Tiffany, [hip-hop artist] Da Brat or any of the guys (including rapper Warren G and country musician Cletus T. Judd) ask about your polyester-clad "Brady Kids" singing days, or seek your Hollywood-survivor wisdom?
McCormick: They all came to me and asked me questions about what [the Brady fame] was like, what I did and how I turned out, which made me feel so incredibly honored. I will be friends with them forever. I bonded with them so much, especially [The Tonight Show's] "Ross the Intern." He was my best friend, my everything.
TVGuide.com: Were you the den-mothering Mrs. Brady or the ever-sage and good-housekeeping Alice of the Fit Club family?
McCormick: I was Carol and Alice combined. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Alas, for every Brady-like bunch, there's a trouble-making Cousin Oliver who totally kills a group dynamic. So give us the scoop: Is it true that you and other Fit Club stars walked off the set when Dustin Diamond launched into a lewd, expletive-laced rant against Kimberley Locke — effectively leaving him to film his remaining scenes apart from the cast?
McCormick: Oh, my gosh. The things he was saying were extremely offensive, I could no longer stay and be a part of it. He was even telling jokes about mentally retarded people, and I have a brother who is handicapped. He went lower than low. We all wanted to work with Dustin and have him be part of our team and be part of the family, because it was a family, so it was sad [what transpired]. I think there were seven of us whose lives changed in a huge way, so the positives of the show totally outweighed [the Diamond drama].
TVGuide.com: You're sort of a mother figure now to your brother, even though he's five years older than you. Do you get to see Denny often?
McCormick I see him every weekend. We took him to Hawaii and Minnesota for Christmas. He's so much a part of my life. He's truly one of my biggest blessings, because he reminds me of what life is all about: innocence and purity, pure simplicity.
TVGuide.com: This is your first reality show, though your TV brothers — Chris Knight (My Fair Brady) and Barry Williams (Celebrity Boxing) — have done their share. Would you do another?
McCormick: I would. You know, it's so strange — I never would've said that in a million years, but after this experience, yeah. It'd have to be the right one, though. It's a whole other medium, this whole other thing, but it can be really powerful and life-changing. It's amazing when there's no script and it's just what's happening. [Reality shows] aren't going anywhere.
TVGuide.com: The Brady Bunch complete-series DVD set includes some infamous spin-off samplings, though absent is the discofied, Fake Jan-touting quasi-reality/musical/variety show that was axed after eight episodes. TV Guide has called The Brady Bunch Hour one of the worst shows ever, but one could argue that it was a primitive and heavily sequined American Idol.
McCormick: Boy, are you kind! [Laughs] I mean, it was like a dream come true in one way, and in another way it was a nightmare. To think that we were ever thought of as a [musical] group just blows my mind. But you know, it was really cute and funny. I look back and say, "It is what it is." I can take pleasure in the fact that it was kind of a weird type of enjoyment. These [spin-offs] were surreal!
TVGuide.com: You worked with Florence Henderson and Susan Olsen on The Brady Bunch Hour in 1977, and with Eve Plumb on 1981's The Brady Brides — all while in the midst of your eating disorder. Did you confide your very real, "unBrady" problems to any of them?
McCormick: I was going through things, but I don't know how much I confided in them. I confided more in my family. But [the Bradys] were like my second family. We all pretty much knew everything there was to know about each other. Eve and I were best friends growing up.
TVGuide.com: It seems you're in the middle of the cast's "embracing Bradiness" spectrum, with Eve [now a painter] on one end and [Growing Up Brady author] Barry on the other.
McCormick: You've got it! Boy, you've got it! [Laughs] I wish Eve and I [talked about our Brady years], but we don't. I miss her.
TVGuide.com: I hear she's the one cast mate skipping the TV Land Awards' Brady reunion [airing April 22], which is too bad, though she was smart to turn down The Brady Bunch Hour. You wisely skipped the 1990 "dramedy" The Bradys, in which Marcia becomes an alcoholic.
McCormick: There were [Brady spin-offs and movie projects] that I was totally behind 100 percent, like, "Yeah, I gotta do this." And there were other ones where I'd read the script and go, "You know what? I think I'm going to pass on this one." I read the script [for The Bradys] and I just couldn't do it.
TVGuide.com: Life is stranger — and tougher — than fiction. Marcia's "Oh, my nose!" debacle and braces drama have nothing on a day in your own life.
McCormick: I'm not going to say my life has been easy, because it hasn't been at all. But I feel very blessed to be where I am. I have a really successful 22-year marriage to the nicest man in the whole world, and we have the most beautiful daughter in the whole world. I really, really believe that this is as good as it gets. I really do. They say "the grass is greener," but it isn't.
TVGuide.com: And you'll always be a part of one of America's most wonderfully unreal families. Now there's talk of casting a Brady Bunch reality show, which means that soon the space-time continuum will have to collapse — but not before a new generation of Brady kids cry out their first, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"
McCormick: [Laughs] I feel so lucky that people love it and embrace it so much. I don't really get it, but I love it. I guess watching the show is like eating comfort food!