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She's Getting Past the Bradys, Sort Of : Movies: But with Eve Plumb's roles in 'God Spoke' and a series, she'll be recognized again.

October 07, 1994|ANNE BERGMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Eve Plumb dyed her hair red and became a much nicer person.

"Now I can have regular conversations!" says the actress famous for playing Jan on television's infinite rerun "The Brady Bunch." As a blonde, Plumb found herself instantly recognized and equally tormented. It seems everyone wants to know what it was like to be a Brady.

Unlike most working actresses, Plumb was never worried about being noticed. "When it doesn't happen, I'm relieved," she says from the Beverly Hills office of her publicist.

But now with the film ". . . And God Spoke," a TV movie and Saturday morning series based on Judy Blume's children's book "Superfudge" set to air in January on ABC, and the upcoming "Brady Bunch" movie, the 36-year-old actress finds herself once again being noticed.

And this time she doesn't seem to mind.

*

In ". . . And God Spoke," a spoof on "Making Of" documentaries that offers a comic glimpse of the production of a biblical epic, Plumb plays herself, nonplussed at being cast as Noah's wife. The camera follows her as soon as she hits the set, where, besieged by questions from the crew about "The Brady Bunch," she only seems uncomfortable once, when someone accidentally calls her Jan instead of Eve .

Director Arthur Borman says Plumb's appearance was "kind of a fluke," resulting from one of her friends being an actor in the film. "It was all improvised," Plumb says offhandedly, "so it was easy to do."

But, for Borman, the opportunity to work with Plumb was a coup envied by every Generation X'er. "Out of all the actors on the set," the 26-year-old director said in a telephone interview, "I was more star-struck by her than by anyone. The Brady heritage is just so ingrained."

Since the Bradys, Plumb has appeared with the improvisational group the Groundlings and most recently on "Lois & Clark" as the "nice mom." "I'm in that weirdo category," she says. "It's different from being a cute young thing to being a nice mom, but getting to change categories is a nice thing about being an actor."

Acting since she was 6, Plumb sees the profession, as just that . . . a profession. "That doesn't mean I'm completely unemotional about it," she says, "it's just that I've gone back and forth over the years wondering what's the magic formula. What gets you the work?"

Plumb had plenty of time to contemplate this mythical formula in her late 20s when the work began to slow, the parts stopped flowing her way. "That's when it became difficult. I didn't realize how much I worked as a kid because I would just get the jobs all the time," she says. Fortunately, her father managed her "Brady" money well enough that she didn't have to look for other jobs between acting gigs.

Now Plumb admits that it has been a struggle to "get people to delineate between who's Eve and who's Jan, because actually I don't consider Jan this fully fleshed-out character. It's not like I was one way when the cameras were rolling and another when they stopped. It wasn't a Meryl Streep thing."

Is that why she refused to appear in the "Brady Bunch" movie, to further distance herself from Jan Brady?

"I didn't want to be in it," Plumb said, "but, unlike other Brady projects, this time I just didn't have the time because I was shooting 'Fudge.' It gave me a good excuse."

Ironically, Florence Henderson (who has also refused to appear in the "Brady" movie) will play the grandmother in the "Fudge" series. While Plumb says that it seemed "natural" to have Henderson around on the set, she adds that she really doesn't keep in touch with other members of the "Brady" cast. But playing a mother to two kids in "Fudge" has given her a chance to contrast how she and her fellow child actors were treated on the "Brady" set to how those of today are treated.

"It could just be the way I remember it," Plumb says, mimicking an old woman's voice recalling her childhood hardships, "but it seems like they get a lot of attention, much more than we did. They have these people getting them water, while in my mind we had it a lot tougher."

Not a mom in real life, Plumb seems content with her on-screen duties. "Right now I have what I've been asking for, a series.

"But I'll know when I've really made it when my name is in the L.A. Times crossword puzzle," she says. "I've been doing it for years, hoping I'll turn up. After all, I have this great palindromic name."

And a legacy that, thanks to reruns, will be hard to shake.

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