ST. LOUIS - It’s not the kind of character that made us fall in love with America’s mom, Florence Henderson.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
In the upcoming dark comedy “Grandmother’s Murder Club,” Henderson is no Carol Brady, the role that made her a household name in “The Brady Brunch.”
Rather, the beloved actress of stage and screen stars as a pot-smoking grandmother turned ringleader of older women trying to outwit a conman in the deep South.
It’s quite the role reversal for Henderson, but the film’s director said she was proud to take the part.
“I think she would have wanted people to see this film more than ever. It’ll give American audiences a different side of her,” said Srikant Chellappa.
And with a career spanning generations, there were lots of sides to Henderson that stood out to her cast and crewmates.
The veteran star became known for her quick wit and impeccable comedic timing.
“I’d say about 20 percent of the film is words that weren’t even on paper,” Chellappa said, noting Henderson’s ad-lib ability.
The team spent about a month together shooting the film in around the St. Louis region last year, where Henderson’s son also lives.
Chellappa said, “We were shooting 12-hour days and she never flinched. Never flinched. It was 100 degrees in the summer. We were in a garage in the heat. Never phased her.”
“She was the type of person that when she came on set, she said good morning to everybody,” said Jamison Sweet, a sound mixer on the project.
On camera and off, Henderson was admired and respected for being so humble and down to Earth.
Sweet said her fame never went to her head like other celebrities. “I said ‘Do you even realize everyone here feels like they know you already? And that you’re a mother figure to us? You get that, right?’ She just smiled and said ‘I’m just Florence Henderson.’”
So perhaps just being herself is what made her so endearing to be around and so cherished for generations.
“It’s something you don’t really think about, but then it happens and you realize how special it was to make a film with her,” Chellappa said.
And now that’s she’s gone, those who’ve worked with her are clinging to the memories that will last a lifetime.
Sweet said, “Not only is the world going to miss such a great person, but St. Louis was lucky to have her here.”
“Grandmother’s Murder Club” was Henderson’s last ever film. It’s expected to be released in the first quarter of 2017.
Chellappa said the actress only saw a rough cut before she died of heart failure this week at the age of 82.