The reboot of Punky Brewster, which premieres on Peacock this Thursday, is added to the “This is exactly the show we need right now” list. All-star cast members include Soleil Moon Frye, who repeats her role as “Punky,” Cherie Johnson, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jasika Nicole, who plays Lauren, a confident lawyer whose relationship with Cherie evolves as the season progresses . We recently met Nicole in Los Angeles, who has a not-so-small part-time job as a fashion and sewing blogger (almost everything in her eco-friendly closet is an item she made, including her shoes and purses) See what’s the season has to offer.
What is it like to be part of such a legendary show?
I’d say it’s pretty exciting because I was an audience on the original show! [laughs] Reboots are obviously becoming very popular and initially my attitude was, “Why can’t we do new things?” It wasn’t until Punky Brewster came along that I realized the personal connection many of us have with these shows – we grow up with them and it’s fun when we have a similar experience to adults and see where the characters we love are when we were younger we landed. There is that part of you that feels like you’ve traveled the world together. It’s almost like you’re having a high school reunion – except one that’s way more exciting and not that traumatic! As an actor, it’s a special pleasure to be part of the show that you saw as a kid – and not because I wanted to be an actor as a kid – I only saw one show because I was involved with it in so many ways. It’s pretty special.
Can you tell us something about the energy on set – was it different because of COVID?
It was such an odd production, not just because of COVID, but because it was my first job since the pandemic. I’ll say it was a very, very safe set. Obviously I was extremely restless at work; I didn’t want to get sick and I didn’t want to make other people sick, but we had a lot of COVID precautions. I was grateful for it, but it makes the work strange. I realized that one thing I’ve always taken for granted in this industry is that when you join a project, you are introduced to that whole family of people – the cast, the crew, and everyone behind working the sets – and you really get to know them. You make friends with these people, which is difficult when you wear a mask and face shield. You can’t see people’s lips, so you can’t read their lips and you can’t hear them very well. It’s a strange way of communicating.
That relationship building you have when you first joined a set just wasn’t there for me in the beginning. It didn’t show up until the second episode I was in. That was after we filmed a bit … because of course we film [the actual scene] without our masks on. That meant I knew these people for a week and had no idea what their smiles looked like! It was so weird. It really got us out of line, but at the same time I think it made us more connected – because for most of us, this was the only social life we’ve had in months. When it was all over we felt more like family than any other show I’ve ever been to which was great. I think everyone was just excited to be working in a safe place and we were generally very, very excited to be there.
Are there any products that you used on the set?
I have super sensitive skin and have been making my own beauty products for a number of years. One of the things you have to do in a hair and makeup trailer for a production is that they always have new products to show off. I always hear, “Oh, you should try this face cream, you should try it.” I really want to be one of those people who have this cool, intense 15 step skin care ritual before going to bed at night, but that’s not what my face asks me to do. My face wants like three products and that’s it. But learning how to listen to your body and pay attention to what it needs is a good thing to learn – instead of just taking all the products the industry wants to throw at you because there are plenty. There’s a lot to rummage through. I’m grateful to have come to a place where I can say, “I really appreciate your lovely $ 200 face cream, that’s wonderful, but I use shea butter on my face and that’s it.” [laughs]
You are very into sustainability with the fashion that you create. Does this carry over to your beauty routine and what you do?
It does. I try to only put products on my face that I know where they come from. In general, for me, easier is better. I use a Burt’s Bees Face Wash. I love it. It’s the only face wash I’ve ever used that doesn’t sting my eyes when they open while I clean my face. It’s amazing and very gentle. Then I inject a simple witch hazel – which costs about $ 1.30 in the drugstore – with some lavender essential oils. It’s great, super cheap, but it’s a really great toner, at least for my skin. Then I use a lotion I make myself that has shea butter, vitamin E, more lavender oil, and a little rose hip oil. Basically, you melt the shea butter and whatever other moisturizer you want to put in there. You put it in the fridge, cool it down a bit, then whip it in your stand mixer or hand mixer to make a really airy cream, whatever you have. I use this mornings and evenings when I wash my face. And I always use sunscreen during the day. This is pretty much my beauty routine.
Punky has a permanent place in the history books of the 80s. Are there any beauty trends from the decade that you wish would come back?
This is a great question because I grew up in the 80s and I didn’t like it back then! It took me a couple of decades to come back to it and say, “I can appreciate these things.” I think what I like best about the 80s is the dynamic colors. We were so shameless when it came to putting together clashing prints – and I’m so excited about this look with my own fashion these days. As for the beauty … I hope that big hair makes a comeback. I think that’s because I have naturally big, curly hair and this is a good time for me not to have to worry about taming it and fighting the frizz. I’ve always loved big hair.
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