‘Punky Brewster’: Soleil Moon Frye Wanted to Bring Back the Classic Sitcom Years Ago
The ’80s were 40 years ago, but intellectual property is forever. Get ready to bring out your “Punky power” with Peacock’s new continuation of the classic sitcom “Punky Brewster.” The original series ran for four seasons starting in 1984, and is now set to return with its two original leads, Soleil Moon Frye in the eponymous starring role, and Cherie Johnson as her best friend.
The new show, debuting on Peacock on February 25, shows what Brewster is doing as a divorced mother of three and how her life changes when an orphan who reminds Punky of herself enters her life.
“We shot the pilot before COVID hit, so for the pilot we were live audience,” said executive producer Jim Armogida during Peacock’s panel at the CTAM 2021 Winter Press Tour on Wednesday. The audience was filled with fans of the original show and “the energy there was unlike anything I’d ever experienced on a TV set,” he said.
When Frye and Johnson stepped on-stage for the first time “you could literally hear a pin drop….because people were so invested,” said Frye. “These are not just characters for us. These are our beings.”
The original series dealt with real world issues, so the desire was to retain that authenticity in the reboot. “The original ‘Punky’ had humor and laughter, and you were also dealing with pain,” she said.
Frye had been hoping to bring the series back for years. “I don’t know where I end and she [Punky] begins because we are so much the same,” she said. Kids growing up with broken homes or in the foster system identified with “Punky,” so Frye felt there was an incredible responsibility to make it touch the lives of those who grew up with it and carry that on to new audiences.
“Punky has really been such a part of my heart,” Frye said. She never wanted to run away from the character growing up. Her issues were found more through becoming a teenager than of being identified with the character. “Through Punky is how I rediscovered so much of my own Punky power,” she said.
The character was an internal compass of sorts for her, so she doesn’t see this as a reboot but instead a continuation of the character. When the series returned Frye saw it as a homecoming. “I always had such an appreciation for ‘Punky,’” she said.
Frye says much of what made the original show work so well was the fact that her and Johnson were allowed to be children. “I always went to summer camp; always had my childhood,” she said. The children in the cast of this new iteration are similar — Frye’s own children will be featured in cameos.
“Punky Brewster” will debut on Peacock on February 25.
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