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Soleil Moon Frye reflects on the revival of ‘Punky Brewster’ TV show

Soleil Moon Frye as Punky Brewster in the 'Punky Brewster' series premiere. Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock

Punky Brewster is back.

The precocious youngster from the 1980s TV show of the same name has returned, but she’s now older and wiser. The Punky Brewster series is a continuation of the ’80s sitcom about a bright young girl raised by a foster dad.

Returning to the role that made her famous is Soleil Moon Frye, but her character is now a single mother of three trying to get her life back on track. Things get more complicated when Punky meets Izzy (Quinn Copeland), a young girl in the foster system who reminds her a lot of her former self.

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Fans of the beloved original series will see Punky’s story continue in this heartwarming series, with new characters and imperfectly perfect family adventures for a new generation of fans.

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Joining Frye in her role reprisal is Cherie Johnson, who plays, well, Cherie.

The series also stars Freddie Prinze Jr. (as Travis, Punky’s ex-husband), Noah Cottrell (Diego), Oliver De Los Santos (Daniel) and Lauren Lindsey Donzis (Hannah).

Frye sat down with Global News for an interview about the show, and she described in colourful detail what it was like revisiting the series.

Global News: You’re telling this sweet family story, but you’re also talking about child abandonment, which is a horribly dark topic. How do you balance both of those things in a story?

Soleil Moon Frye: It felt like lightning in a bottle. There was an energy that was so beautiful and so amazing in the way in which we all came together. You could literally hear a pin drop in the live-audience taping because people were so invested. Cherie and I … I’m constantly in tears of gratitude to be able to have this dream come true.

We were so emotional at the end when we were talking to the audience because we said, “These are not just characters for us, these are our beings. And Punky Power to us is about so much of our rediscovery of self.” You could feel it that night.

The original Punky Brewster dealt with so many real issues and for us creatively, to keep that authenticity was absolutely pivotal and important to all of us involved. The original Punky had humour and laughter, and you also were dealing with pain; life is messy and we go through roller-coasters of emotions. To continue that honesty was incredibly important to everyone involved.

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Pictured L-R, the cast of ‘Punky Brewster’: Lauren Lindsey Donzis as Hannah, Noah Cottrell as Diego, Cherie Johnson as Cherie, Soleil Moon Frye as Punky, Oliver De Los Santos as Daniel, Quinn Copeland as Izzy and Freddie Prinze Jr. as Travis. Robert Trachtenberg/Peacock

Can you talk about how you felt when you first found out that they were gonna be remaking this? Was it hard or easy to get back into that character?

SMF: I have been wanting to bring Punky back forever, I mean for as long as I remember. I always said if I was 88 years old and people still call me Punky, I will be thrilled by it. Punky is such a part of me, I don’t know where I end and she begins because we are so much the same, so to be a part of the journey throughout from the beginning of this full circle — or full spiral as I like to call it — has been a true gift.

With that said, I felt there was an incredible responsibility to make it touch the lives of the people that grew up with it and to be able to carry that on. Over the years, the number of people that have come to me that came through the foster system, that came through broken homes, and share their stories about how Punky really was their family, to maintain that integrity was so important to us. I feel so blessed by our brilliant and amazing cast, our crew. … I really hope that the generation that grew up with Punky loves it and that this whole new generation loves it just as much. Punky forever! You can call me Punky forever, truly.

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Obviously, you love being Punky. I think it’s very refreshing to see because there are certain personalities that played a character that, after the show’s over, they shy away from it. Was there ever a time over the years where you thought, ‘I want to move past Punky’? Or was it always, ‘I’m Punky Brewster, that’s who I am, and I want to come back’?

Punky has really been such a part of my heart. I never wanted to run away from it. I also wanted to be able to grow. I think I had more issues going through puberty and how people treated me around that than Punky. I was always joyful about Punky. And of course, we go through the trials and tribulations of growing up and wanting to have our sense of self. And yet, for me, I’ll actually say that through Punky is how I really believe I rediscovered so much of my own Punky Power.

There were times in my life over the years that I lost some of that, and this was an internal compass as my way back. I never tried to run from it. Someone might call it a reboot, but I really feel like this is a continuation. We’re not trying to recreate something different. It’s like I am Punky grown up and this incredible Izzy helps me to rediscover my Punky Power. Our amazing cast — Lauren, and Noah, and Freddie Prinze Jr. and Cherie and Oli — the incredible cast, it’s not just about my power, it’s the Cherie power, it’s the Izzy power, it’s everyone’s inner power. I think so often we forget that inner spark that we have in youth and it’s been really like a rediscovery of that again.

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‘Punky Brewster’ begins streaming on March 4 at 8 p.m. ET on STACKTV, in tandem with the series premiere on W Network.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Global News and W Network are both properties of Corus Entertainment.

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