Soleil Moon Frye Says the 'Punky Brewster' Reboot Is “A Dream Come True”

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Samantha Lawyer
·4 min read
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From Woman's Day

Punky Brewster, the ‘80s sitcom about a young girl and her foster parent, is making a comeback. This time around, Soleil Moon Frye is reprising her lead role as a grown-up Punky, and she’s nothing short of elated about it.

“It’s so amazing the way in which the stars aligned, and the universe aligned, in which this is all coming together now," Frye tells Woman's Day. With the world needing “that Punky Power, that Cherie Power, and that Kid Power again now more than ever,” Frye says that “to have this comeback at this time is just a dream come true.”

Frye, who has enjoyed a decades-long acting career, has a special affinity for the Punky character she initially landed at the tender age of 8. “Punky is such a big part of my heart,” she explains. “I always said that if I’m 88 and people call me 'Punky,' I’ll be totally cool with it.” As both a star and executive producer of the reboot, Frye says she has felt “this little girl in me coming back alive” in a powerful way. “Rediscovering that inner spark that I think so often we associate with youth, has been one of the greatest joys of my life," she explains.

The original series, which debuted in 1984 and lasted four seasons, tackled heavy issues — like child abandonment and the foster care system — with both humor and tenderness. It earned Emmy nominations in 1985 and 1986 for Outstanding Children’s Program, along with a dedicated audience that the reboot aims to serve. Frye notes that “the original really did such a beautiful job of healing through laughter, and dealing with topics and conversations that were so important to have amongst families,” and the reboot of the series aims to do much of the same.

When viewers catch up with Punky in 2021, she’s navigating a slew of complicated life changes, from co-parenting with her ex-husband (Freddie Prinze Jr.) to taking in a spunky foster child Izzy (Quinn Copeland) who is both unique and reminiscent of her younger self. She already has a biological daughter Hannah (Lauren Lindsey Donzis), along with adopted sons Diego (Noah Cottrell) and Daniel (Oliver De Los Santos).

Photo credit: Evans Vestal Ward/ Peacock - NBC Universal
Photo credit: Evans Vestal Ward/ Peacock - NBC Universal

Just like Punky, Frye has four children, and says the parallels between the show and her real life are striking. She says that her kids have jokingly asked if there are hidden cameras in the house, given the many similarities present in the script. She hopes that the authenticity of the reboot resonates with viewers, and that people will “connect to one of the characters, whether it’s Cherie, Freddie, myself, the kids, or maybe all of it.” They each offer something different, Frye says, and “are so much more than characters, because I really believe they’re so true to life.”

Joining Frye in the reboot is Cherie Johnson, whose friendship with Punky in the original series continues in the reboot. Johnson shares Frye’s excitement about the timeliness of the reboot, and says that it’s the ideal moment to “visit a feel good place and time in our lives,” and talk to our children about what’s going on in the world. “That’s what Punky always was, a conversation starter,” Johnson tells Woman's Day.

Photo credit: Evans Vestal Ward/ Peacock - NBC Universal
Photo credit: Evans Vestal Ward/ Peacock - NBC Universal

Johnson (who shares the same name as her character) acts as a strong female role model to Punky’s kids in the show, which also rings true to their connection off-camera. “Soleil’s children and I, we really have that same relationship," Johnson explains. "Her girls – they keep me young!” She recalls her own women mentors, such as Susie Garrett, who played her grandmother in the original Punky Brewster as being inspirational in that regard.

Having been there from the very beginning, both Frye and Johnson can’t wait to share the newest generation of “Punky Power” with fans. All 10 episodes of Punky Brewster are set to drop on Peacock on February 25th.

In the meantime, gratitude is the overwhelming emotion from the cast. “To have this opportunity,” Frye says, “we’re so aware of what a gift it is, and there’s just not a moment that I take it for granted.”

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