Brian's first headshot

Alan Napier

With Mom and Stepfather

Family Affair

The Brady Bunch

Jeremy Gelbwaks

Jeremy & his Mom, Sydney

Brian's first photo shoot

By his dressing room

Stage 30, 1971

Stage 30, today

An Interview With

Before he joined the cast of "The Partridge Family" in the role of Chris Partridge in 1971, Brian Forster had already appeared in over 20 television commercials. He also made guest appearances on such series as "Family Affair," "The Survivors," "My Friend Tony," and "The Brady Bunch." You could say the choice to become an actor was out of his hands, as he has a distinguished family history. His great, great, great grandfather was Charles Dickens. His grandfather was Alan Napier, better known as the butler 'Alfred' on the "Batman" TV series. His stepfather was Whit Bissell, well-known character actor of film and TV. His father Peter Forster was a director and film and TV actor and his mother, Jennifer Raine, was an actress who has performed both here and in her native England. Brian is a professional racecar driver and stunt driver. He has taken part in Improvisation Workshops at West County Theatre Arts Guild and played the part of Bob Cratchit and Scrooge's nephew in A Christmas Carol for Nova Theatre. Recently, Brian appeared in stage productions of "Gypsy" with the Santa Rosa Playhouse and "Lysistrata" with the Sonoma County Repertory Theater. He sings, plays guitar, has taught science at High School and Elementary levels, and is currently embarking on a new career in the wine industry. Brian was gracious enough to sit down and reminisce about his career with Scott Awley and from November 2002 through March 2003. So sit back as Brian takes us on a few laps around San Pueblo.

GetHappy: How did you get your start in acting?

Brian Forster: I came from an acting family and my Mom started me in commercials to get money for college. I did my first commercial at age seven for Texaco. My Mom was an actress named Jennifer Raine. My father was an actor and my stepfather was a character actor named Whit Bissell.

GH: He was in "The Time Tunnel", wasn't he?

BF: That's right. He sort of made a career out of the B Movies and horror flicks like "Creature From the Black Lagoon" and "I Was A Teen-Age Werewolf" and stuff like that. And my grandfather, Alan Napier was the butler, Alfred, on "Batman". And, my great-great-great grandfather is Charles Dickens. He also was an actor.

GH: Charles Dickens was an actor?

BF: In fact a lot of the pieces he wrote he did specifically to do readings. Later, it became more in novel form. But, "A Christmas Carol" was written to be done as a play. So, you can see I come from a family of actors and actresses. My Mom didn't really want me to do it except it would give me money for college.

GH: Did your family give you any inside advice on being an actor?

BF: Well, it was strictly for college. My Mom was constantly saying, "Don't be an actor, don't be an actor." Until I became a racecar driver, and then she thought acting was a great idea!

GH: Tell us about your commercials.

BF: I did 21 commercials. United Airlines, Texaco, and one for Nestle's Quik, which won some kind of an award for best children's commercial. I also did a commercial for Mattel's Hot Wheels.

GH: Do you remember anything from "Family Affair"?

BF: Not too much. Most of my memories are obviously from a child's perspective. I was in that episode with my mother. She played "Mom" and I played "Child." I remember going on the set and seeing a chair that said "Brian Keith" on it. And I thought, "Oh! My name is Brian," so I sat in the chair, until someone corrected me that it was a different Brian that was supposed to sit in that chair. I also remember there was an elephant on the set.

GH: That must have been fun!

BF: The plot was Buffy had a birthday party in the apartment, so they bring an elephant up through the elevator. So, I think my part was, "Gee mommy what's an elephant doing in the elevator?" Again, from the perspective of a kid, I was having more fun hanging out with the elephant.

GH: What do you remember about being on "The Brady Bunch"?

BF: I played the Prince to Cindy Olsen's Princess in a school play. What I remember about that is during rehearsals I am supposed to be saying "Fairy Princess! Fairy Princess! Where are you?" and I forgot my line, for real during rehearsal. And the Director thought that was great and they decided to keep it in, and changed the scene so someone yells my line from off stage. So that all happened because I forgot my line.

GH: How did you wind up joining "The Partridge Family"?

BF: They actually asked for me. Jeremy wasn't coming back and they wanted a kid that was well-behaved and had experience. Also, the mom was part of it too. So I didn't have to go on a cattle call audition or anything. I just went on the interview and walked out that afternoon with them saying, "OK great, you're on the show."

GH: What do you mean by "the mom was part of it too?"

BF: Apparently Jeremy's mom was kind of a stage mother and they really didn't want to have that problem again. They wanted a mom that was a little more professional.

GH: Were you aware of "The Partridge Family" before you joined the cast?

BF: Oh, very much so. It was my favorite show. I remember being in fourth or fifth grade, dancing around to "I Think I Love You" and all of a sudden I was going to be on the show, so I was pretty excited.

GH: How did you first meet the cast?

BF: We did a publicity shoot and I met them all there. It was kind of a funny set up. There was a painter's palette, or painted windows and I was on the bottom row, with my head sticking out. I remember at one point I was supposed to be on the floor between Susan Dey's legs and thinking that was pretty cool. I didn't know why, I just thought it was nice. After a while, there were so many photo shoots I just forgot them. Sometimes I see stuff now, and don't remember doing it.

GH: Do you remember who interviewed you?

BF: It was probably Bob Claver's office. There were a bunch of producers in there. It was different because I was used to going into an audition or interview where you would have literally hundreds of kids and their moms. You'd be in there for a couple of minutes and they'd say, "That was great. Thank you. Goodbye." And I remember this one was just me and a bunch of men in an office at the Screen Gems offices in Hollywood.

GH: On an ordinary day, who would accompany you to the set?

BF: My Mom. Pretty much 100% of the time.

GH: Did you have your own trailer?

BF: There was a trailer that had three rooms in it. I think I was on one end and Suzanne was on the other. The middle room might have been used for a guest star or something. Danny had one opposite that, next to Susan's trailer. David, Shirley and Dave's trailers were on the other side of the parking lot closer to the soundstage.

GH: What soundstage did you use?

BF: We filmed on Stage 30. It's funny, about 2 years ago I was able to get on the Ranch, and it was an absolute trip to go back 30 years later into the same Soundstage. It was funny because they had just finished filming a music video for the group Korn, and I thought it was funny that they were still filming music videos there. But to go from "The Partridge Family" to Korn! Things have changed a little bit!

GH: Did you get to walk around the house exterior?

BF: Oh, yeah and it looked exactly the same. Memory is an absolutely powerful thing. The minute I drove around the corner and saw it, I immediately flashed back literally 30 years, practically imagining all the cast and crew and the things we used to do -- especially when I went into the soundstage. You know, there is something about movie sets. There is a smell that's like a combination of light gels and wood and makeup and whatever else that is so powerful. So when I walked in, there it was such a flashback for me.

GH: Do you remember any other shows that were filming on the Ranch when you were there?

BF: The first year I was there, the Bobby Sherman show ["Getting Together"] was still being shot on Stage 29 and then "Bridget Loves Birney". Also, there was a John Davidson show filmed there ["The Girl With Something Extra"].

GH: Did any of these shows have kids you might have hung around with?

BF: There were only two soundstages on the lot. It was us and whoever was on Stage 29. There would have been exterior shooting on the Ranch, but from what I remember we were pretty much it.


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