Barry Williams may be more than 50 years his youngest competitor’s senior on “Dancing With the Stars,” but he puts time, dedication and energy into his performances week after week — and they’re paying off.
Next week will be the season’s eighth episode, and Williams, known for his role as Greg Brady on “The Brady Bunch,” is one of seven couples left competing for the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy. His partner is the professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd.
During the last episode, Williams, 69, said getting onto the dance floor was for more than just himself. “I have to prove something for a whole generation,” he said during the episode. “That it is never too late to take on new challenges.”
Throughout the show, Williams has linked his career experiences to his dances every week. In one episode when he danced a jazz number, he shared a story about working with the choreographer and director Bob Fosse on the musical “Pippin.” When he danced to “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John in the latest episode, he said John was his favorite singer, and he “pulled every string I could” to meet the performer at the Hollywood Bowl in 1973.
From the archives (June 2023): ‘Retirement is so traditional’ — try periodic retirement to figure out what’s next
Williams spoke with MarketWatch about his time so far on “Dancing With the Stars,” as well as what retirement means to him. “Dancing With the Stars” airs live on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
MarketWatch: During this week’s episode, you mentioned doing this for an entire generation. Could you expand on that for me, please? What did you mean?
Barry Williams: What I said was I had something to prove. I have had a career in which multiple generations have grown up with my show, “The Brady Bunch,” as a family show and so, as the years have gone on, the fans have matured and then there have been subsequent generations coming up. The generation that was watching our show when we aired in the ’70s, we’re all pretty much the same age, and I feel very connected to them.
So at my age, which is 69, a lot of people are thinking about retiring, thinking about changing their lives, thinking about leaving their jobs and doing other things without giving a lot of thought to what it is they will do when they’re not working. I see many friends get frustrated and bored: How many times can you walk around the block or play a game of golf, hit the tennis court, or take a camping trip?
So I wanted to speak to that generation, my generation, and explain that taking on a challenge that might be bigger than you think you can handle is a good thing to do, because however somebody sees their own challenge, there can be great, great rewards. So I was talking about this being that for me, and having fulfilled dreams.
MarketWatch: During the intro videos before each dance, you always have a great story about the song or dance style, such as your connection to jazz, for example. How do you think your experiences through your career have helped you during this season?
Williams: Immensely. A lot of credit goes to Peta, my partner, and that has to do with the way we approach the dance. We listen to the music, we understand how it’s moving, how it’s counted, where it builds, where it crescendos, where the bridge is, all the different aspects that we want to express in whatever style dance we’re doing.
She choreographs to that and using all of the technique of strict ballroom dancing, and then we look at it as the characters and the story we want to express and to interpret through the music. That’s my wheelhouse, as acting, as characters. So there is drama and a real sense of energy being exchanged between the two of us, and that seems to have been a pretty good formula.
“‘Taking on a challenge that might be bigger than you think you can handle is a good thing to do. ‘”
MarketWatch: Do you think there are any challenges you may have that your fellow contestants don’t have? And how do you overcome those week after week?
Williams: I’m not going to play the age card, but everybody I’m dancing against is 30 years younger, and in some cases, 50. So that is a challenge … I am the senior member, but I don’t want it to be about that. I don’t want points added because it’s a little harder for me to get around.
What I do and what Peta does for me is we try and find what is the most suitable for my own style, my own expression, my own movement, and then we play into those strengths. And it might not be jumping up and down and it might not be twisting or having her twist around my neck and dips and tricks and things like that, but it is things that are appropriate for my skills.
MarketWatch: What do you attribute your weekly successes to?
Williams: I have a great partner — that helps tremendously. Peta and I have a great chemistry and a lot of our approaches to doing what we’re doing are similar. She has a tremendous work ethic. I have a really good attitude about what we’re doing. I look forward to it. I’m anxious to do it. I’m enthusiastic about learning. It is demanding and challenging, and … you have to be prepared to take on the task.
It requires a great deal of preparation, of rehearsal, of patience, and I think it goes back to the same things I learned during “The Brady Bunch” when I was 14 years old. It has to do with being there on time, coming in with a good attitude and being prepared.
From the archives (November 2022): Looking for a ‘third act’ when you retire? The more dramatic, the better.
MarketWatch: You work very hard, but what does retirement look like — and mean — to you?
Williams: I think about retirement and I always get stopped up at the same place — and that is, what would I possibly do in retirement that I would like better than doing what I’m doing as a professional actor, singer, entertainer? And I can’t come up with anything.
So I don’t see ever saying no to everything so that I can go fishing. I think there’s a nice blend of excitement throughout the year. I am not necessarily working every week or month, even, of every year, so retirement looks like to me a blend of really nice vacations in the winter and summer per year, and enjoying home life, and going out and working on projects that I choose. I think the nicest part of being at this stage of career where I am is that I probably say no at least as much as I say yes; that I can pick and choose. And that is the kind of freedom that I really, really enjoy, and makes me feel like I have a lot more control over how I spend my time.
MarketWatch: During the last episode, you said it’s never too late to follow your dreams at any age. What other advice could you share for older Americans, especially those inspired by your performances every week?
Williams: I would say keep looking for your passion. Keep looking for what your priorities are and get them in line. We had a tremendous reset in 2020. … When you’re approaching life from a place where you understand what’s really important to you and what your values really are and you can put your intention, your time, your energy into those things, that keeps you young a long, long time.