In his lengthy career, Freddie Prinze Jr. was part of many memorable projects, from the Scooby-Doo movies to I Know What You Did Last Summer to the disturbingly amazing The House of Yes. In recent years, he took a break from live-action acting to focus on fatherhood, making limited TV appearances on top of voice work in projects such as the excellent Star Wars Rebels. That all got flipped around when Prinze joined the cast of Peacock's Punky Brewster revival alongside returning star Soleil Moon Frye, and the actor has an awesome story behind why he agreed to take it.
As seen and heard in the video above, it was more a series of interesting moments and unpredictable coincidences that led Freddie Prinze Jr. to the role of Punky Brewster's semi-slacker ex-husband Travis. It's quite the ripping yarn to hear in its entirety, as it's very much like a shaggy dog story, but one that actually involves a positive outcome, rather than something jokey or disappointing. For those who didn't or can't watch, here's how he started the tale:
This was a random kind of...the word kismet. I don't know the exact definition of kismet, but I keep hearing people say that, so I'm just gonna steal it and say it. I was done. I was retired, bro. Like, I had already quit the business. I'd worked for WWE. I was just playing and writing Dungeons and Dragons stories for all my friends because they liked my stories and asked me to do them. When I was working, I stopped. So I was happy and good and cool. And then my buddy, who you probably know, Brian Austin Green – really good actor, good dude – he called me up and he said, 'Hey, man, there's a remake of Punky Brewster, and they really like you for it. You should meet with Soleil, because she's amazing. I've known her since we were kids. If you meet her, you're gonna say yes.' And he goes, 'I know you don't like to read stuff anymore, but just read it.' I go, 'Okay, man, I'll read it.' And I didn't. I played some Call of Duty instead. I did.
Interestingly enough, Freddie Prinze Jr.'s name was apparently being considered by the Punky Brewster producers, despite his lack of intentions by way of landing big TV jobs. That possibly came by way of Beverly Hills 90210 and Masked Dancer vet Brian Austin Green, who co-starred with Prinze on the 2000s sitcom Freddie, and who was also good friends with Punky Brewster herself, Soleil Moon Frye. (Fun fact, Green will appear in Frye's home-movie documentary Kid 90, which debuts on Hulu.) But despite the advice of a good friend to dig into the script, Prinze was like nahhhh.
Of course, Freddie Prinze Jr.'s negligence didn't go unchecked for very long. He continued, saying:
And then two days later, he called me and he goes – I'm gonna say jerk; he used a different word – 'You friggin' jerk! I told them you're gonna read it. It's been two days, and you haven't done anything.' He goes, 'It shoots in L.A.' And I was like, 'Oh, why didn't you say it shoots in L.A.? Yeah, I'll read it.' And so I started reading it, and I started cracking up, and Sarah [Michelle Gellar] goes, 'What are you laughing at?' I said, 'You wouldn't believe me if I told you.' She goes, 'What are you reading?' I said, 'This is the Punky Brewster pilot.' She was like, 'Stop it. They're remaking it?' I said, 'Yeah.' She goes, 'I did a show with Soleil when we were 14 years old. It was like a New York-only show called Girl Talk. And it was like a talk show for teenagers. You're gonna love her.' Everything Brian Greene said. 'You're gonna love her. Da-da-da.'
So now Freddie Prinze Jr. had two of his best friends, one of whom being his wife, telling him that it was a no-brainer to try and land the role on Punky Brewster's revival. All that was left for him to do was meet Soleil Moon Frye, and the bizarre circumstances behind that first meeting were what immediately convinced him to take the gig. Here's how Prinze explained it:
So I go to meet Soleil, and we're sitting in front of the clocktower at Universal Studios from Back to the Future. And we're even In-N-Out burgers. And this lady in a suit – she's an usher at Universal – comes up and she goes, 'There's gonna be a proposal here in like five minutes. I hate to ask you to leave.' And we're like, 'Oh my god, just push us out of here!' If you're facing the clocktower, there's a stairway that goes to nowhere, just into the dark. So Soleil and I hide there so we could watch the proposal and still finish our lunch without it getting cold. And the same girl, the usher, is the one making the proposal. She has this sick haircut like mine, but it looks cool, because it's like short and longer, real cyberpunk-y. And she gets down on one knee and she's proposing to her girlfriend. She said yes, by the way; it all worked out. And this tramcar rolls up – this is pre-pandemic – and it's playing the Back to the Future theme song and all the people on the tram start cheering when the girl says yes. So I looked at Soleil, and she looks at me, and I legit go, 'Look if you guys want me to do this, I'll do it.' She goes, 'We want you to do it!' I was like, 'I'm in,' and that was it, man! I'm telling you, that's word-for-word straight up. I know it's not like the story actors usually tell, because they usually lie, but that's straight up how the whole thing came to pass.
How many times in life can someone say that an impromptu Back to the Future-themed proposal at Universal Studios was the reason they decided to take a big job? Definitely not the case for me, I gotta say. In fact, none of my jobs involve Back to the Future's long-lasting legacy, except for the one gig at the sports almanac. But I lost that one before I even got it, so go figure. (Womp womp.)
In the end, Brian Austin Green, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Soleil Moon Frye were the holy trinity that convinced Freddie Prinze Jr. to agree to Punky Brewster, and we can only assume the Universal Studios usher also went by three names. Maybe her middle name was "Kismet."
Grab the family and be sure to check out all 10 episodes of Punky Brewster's revival on Peacock. And if you happen to need a Dungeons & Dragons campaign written up, Prinze might just be your guy, if he's not working on Season 2.