Some actors spend their whole lives trying to separate themselves from the roles that made them famous. But Soleil Moon Frye doesn’t roll like that.
Frye was eight years old when her titular sunny role as Punky Brewster turned her into the pig-tailed playmate kids loved having around in the ’80s. Now that she’s all grown up with kids of her own, Frye says the Peacock revival has allowed her to tap into a wave of nostalgia she likely shares with fans.
“Punky has always been such a huge part of my heart. I don’t know where she ends and I begin because we’re the same in so many ways,” Frye, who is an EP on the updated comedy, tells TVLine. “I have wanted to bring Punky back for so long. I’m that person that, literally, if I’m 88 years old and people are still calling me Punky, I’m down. I love her so much. And I am just so grateful.”
TVLine readers, in kind, responded favorably to the revival and its charms when the show premiered last week, giving the family sitcom an A- average.
“I have always held a place in my heart for a Punky re-awakening, and the universe aligned and the stars aligned, and I just am so proud,” Frye adds. “It’s been this incredible journey that has come full circle, and I am honored and humbled to be able to bring her back to life again.”
Aside from being something the whole family can watch together, Punky Brewster weaves in a lot of sweet touches from the past to drum up warm and fuzzy feelings for kids at heart. This includes an updated version of Henry and Punky’s Chicago apartment and even that cool and colorful treehouse that fans coveted. Punky still rocks brightly colored clothes and Chucks, but she also wears black leather these days. One episode is a full-on homage to the 1980s.
Prinze Jr. says he also felt inspired by the show’s vision and, because of that, parlayed what was originally written as a recurring role into that of a series regular.
“I wouldn’t even have done this show if it weren’t for Brian Austin Green,” Prinze Jr. says with a laugh before explaining that Green is a mutual friend of his and Frye’s. Prinze’s wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar, also worked with Frye on a 1989 kids’ chat show called Girl Talk.
Green “called me up and said, ‘Hey, man. They’re remaking the Punky show. I know you’re not trying to work’ — I hadn’t read a script in five years — ‘but read this. You’re going to love Soleil,'” Prinze Jr. recalls. “I hung up, and I played Call of Duty instead for eight hours. Two days later, Brian called me and cursed me out because the show shoots in L.A. and I wouldn’t have to travel and I could take care of my kids. So I read the script and started laughing. And when I did the pilot, Soleil and I had chemistry right away. It was just easy.”
Prinze Jr. says Punky Brewster also has an old-school sensibility that resonated with him on a personal level.
“It reminds me of the vibe my dad had with Chico and the Man,” he says. “Travis is journeying back to earn trust. He lived the musician lifestyle with drugs and alcohol to the point his wife, Punky, had to file. This is what my mom had to do when my dad battled cocaine and Quaaludes. I wasn’t safe with him, so she had to file. That’s not the main story, but that’s Travis’ story, and I really responded to it. He’s willing to put in the work and earn trust again.”
Frye was also impressed by the chemistry she and Prinze Jr. shared and hoped that fans would enjoy that aspect of the sitcom as well.
“It’s been amazing chemistry,” Frye says. “From the moment when we first met, I felt so connected to Freddie, and I had worked with his wife many years ago and had an amazing experience with her when we were teens. Meeting him all these years later was a joy. From the moment we met, I felt like I had known him for so many years. It was just so fun coming together to do this.”
And more than anything, Frye says she wants viewers to kick back and enjoy the show.
“It’s been a real joy,” she continues. “I hope we send some laughter to people’s lives right now because we could all really use some laughter. For me, it’s so much more than a show because it’s our lives, and I hope it’s more than a show to people who can connect with their kids through our show and have it touch their lives as well.”
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