When Punky Brewster premiered in 1984, it was a show unlike any before. Soleil Moon Frye starred as Punky, an outgoing tween who’s abandoned with her beloved Golden Retriever. Punky is taken in by a Chicago photographer who brings joy back to her life. Along the way, she and her two friends, Cherie and Allen, navigate childhood through Punky’s new normal.
The show aired for four seasons on NBC before its initial ending. An animated spinoff, It’s Punky Brewster, followed for an additional two seasons.
When it was announced that a revival series of the original sitcom was set to air on Peacock, longtime fans couldn’t contain their excitement. One of those fans, who is also starring in the revival, is Jaskia Nicole.
Nicole plays the character Lauren, the girlfriend of Punky’s longtime friend Cherie. During a chat with Shadow and Act, Nicole gushed about being a huge fan of the 80s craze.
“There weren’t a lot of non-animated shows that were meant for kids back then when I was little. So I just remember having a watch shows like Matlock all the time with my mom. And so when Punky Brewster was on TV, I was like, ‘This is my time to shine, let me just enjoy this please,” she remembered fondly. “I always identified with Cherie but wanted to be a Punky because I thought that Punky was really brave and spunky and she didn’t care what people thought. I really admired those qualities because I was such a rule follower and I would never, ever in a million years defy what somebody told me to do if they were an adult or in a position of authority or something. So, I was a big fan of the show.”
Landing a role in the reboot is a full-circle moment for the actress. But more importantly, she’s happy to play a character true to her own life, a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s even more heartwarming for Nicole to star as Cherie’s girlfriend considering she related mostly to her character as a childhood fan.
“Love within the LGBTQ+ community is not always necessarily depicted in a positive light, and that’s if it’s depicted at all. So, I was really excited to jump on board this project for that specific reason,” she explained. “We always talk about how Black love is beautiful and it’s important, and we need to see more of it. And I think that that absolutely holds true in the community as well…I think that Hollywood is on a real interracial love kick. It’s almost like it’s safer to show love if one of the characters is white it’s I think that they think the audience will connect to it more. I just don’t think that that’s necessarily true. I think that love is beautiful, no matter what it looks like, and that it is really significant to show specifically black love between two women.”
Furthermore, Nicole is excited to showcase such on a family show, especially where children and teens can witness a different version of a family. As with the original with Punky being raised in a non-traditional household, the reboot shows another picture of what a family can be.
“It’s about kind of challenging the notion that a family has to look a certain way and be a specific kind of nuclear family. I think that those values, I totally took them to heart when I was a kid. Kids can be adopted, kids can be raised by their grandparents, families can look any kind of different way,” she explained. “With this reboot, they’re kind of taking that original premise and moving forward with it, including with my character and Jerry’s character who are raising families showing that they can be headed by a same-sex couple. That is a very significant thing for me personally to show.”
Nicole considers herself a “regular actress,” but roles she’s had have been poignant. Her credits include the critically-acclaimed series Underground.
She believes Punky Brewster is the perfect opportunity to expand on images of Black women in relationships, as they are typically left out of mainstream content.
“I have been out since pretty much the beginning of my career, which started in the early 2000s. This is the first role that I have ever played in network television of a Black lesbian woman dating another Black woman,” Nicole said. “That’s a long span of time because there’s only a handful of Black women in Hollywood who are out in the first place. So, for this to be the first time I’ve even had the opportunity to play a role, it really, really blows my mind.”
The first season of the Punky Brewster revival is now streaming on Peacock. Moon Frye and Johnson reprise their original roles.