[INTERVIEW] Cherie Johnson Opens Up About ‘Punky Brewster’ Reboot, Business Ventures Outside Acting
One may know Cherie Johnson as Punky Brewster’s bestie, Laura Winslow’s homegirl and/or even the love of Waldo Geraldo Faldo’s life, but, of course, the actress-author-producer-business woman is a whole lot more than those characters she so brilliantly depicted. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Johnson, who is of African American and Puerto Rican descent, is about to reprise the role of a lifetime in an upcoming reboot of the long running ABC/CBS sitcom, Punky Brewster.
Parlé Magazine recently checked in with the proud soccer mom – an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic – just as filming had wrapped on the first episode of the soon-to-be returning show. Check out the full interview below.
Parlé Mag: First things first, congratulations on UCP’s forthcoming Punky Brewster revival — I have to know though, were you quick to sign on or did you have to mull it over a bit first? I mean, considering it being a classic sitcom and all.
Cherie Johnson: When you get the opportunity (to) go revisit one of the best experiences of your life, there is NO hesitations. Also with Soleil and David Duclon on board as producers, you know the integrity of the project will stay intact.
Parlé Mag: What exactly was it like returning to the soundstage with your old friend Soleil Moon Frye? Have the two of you actually remained close throughout the years?
Cherie Johnson: Walking on the Universal lot in itself is such a gift, and knowing you’re coming back to do a project you are emotionally connected to is amazing. Then getting to be with your childhood soulmate, it’s indescribable! I am 44 year old, and I have known Soleil 38 years. That’s as long as I’ve known MYSELF almost! Life has gotten in the way, and it had been about 18 years (since) we had been face to face. We stayed connected through social media.
Parlé Mag: Did “Punky” and Cherie pretty much pick right back up from where they last left off?
Cherie Johnson: Not a beat was missed; I love that woman’s SOUL!
Parlé Mag: That being said, what is the premise of the new series? How then does the dynamic between you and your on screen best friend work more than twenty years after the original went off the air?
Cherie Johnson: The premise of the new Punky basically fast-forwards us onto a relatable REAL life experience of two forty something year old women on the roller coaster of raising children and being working strong women. We grew up together! Literally, our friendship is more solid than titanium, and sometimes we know what’s best for each other.
Parlé Mag: Sadly a few integral cast members have since passed on — Have you felt their absence in regards to the reunion? Will any of your former cast-mates be returning; if not right away, maybe a lil later on down the line?
Cherie Johnson: Their presence was felt! Walking on the set was so WARM it was just like going back home after you have been gone for so long. Susie Garrett (Grandma Betty on the show) was right there with her grandbaby (Me), so much so I became overwhelmed and cried like a baby the second I saw the old Punky stairs. I heard her voice, which is a recurring thing with Susie; I hear her talk to me every now and again out the blue over the last couple of years. Walking in the living room, George [Gaynes] (who played Henry Warnimont) I know was looking down very proud. You could feel them; we for sure had their blessings. As far as our other cast-mates, there was talk about future episodes of us all together just like the old days… Giggles ensue Just to say the “old days” is hilarious to me!
Parlé Mag: What new characters have been added to the mix?
Cherie Johnson: Punky has a ex husband, which gave us the gift of Freddie Prinze Jr. – who I hadn’t seen since he did ‘Family Matters‘ – and there are a group of the most beautiful, talented well mannered children; Lauren [Donzis], Noah [Cottrell], Oliver [De Los Santos] and Quinn [Copeland]!
Parlé Mag: Switching gears here, in the past two plus decades what all else had/have you been up to both personally and professionally speaking?
Cherie Johnson: Wow, two decades I covered a lot! Let me give you the short version of my story More giggles I produced fourteen films, cast a few films, published five books, opened and closed a restaurant in Houston, became a mommy to the most amazing little girl, recertified myself as a nutritionist – so I could continue my journey helping people transform their health and quality of life – I co-own two medi-Spas in South Florida KIAN, and I’m a shareholder in the all natural company, Going2Natural, and co-own an all natural hair care line, Wild Cherry ?, while running www.Adviceformysistas.com and Cherie’s World Podcast; I’ve been a lil busy!
Parlé Mag: Of course you were also a series regular in the role of Maxine Johnson on another popular sitcom, ‘Family Matters‘ — Any chance of them maybe bringing that one back, too?
Cherie Johnson: I have no idea…life is full of surprises!
Parlé Mag: As mentioned, you’ve released a number of literary works; what prompted your decision to write novels? And, is there another book currently in the works?
Cherie Johnson: I promised my mom I would write twelve books when I was 5 years old Cherie chuckles I always keep my promises! When I signed my first book deal, my publisher wanted me to write my autobiography… I didn’t finish it, I felt it wasn’t time. I didn’t have enough of my story then. Now, I have grown; my story is full circle. I am going to take the next few months and see if I can complete the book. So, yes, “Cherie on Top” is back in the works, and I hope to release it 2020!
Parlé Mag: Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Cherie Johnson: Enjoying every second, and realizing it’s a gift while not taking myself seriously at all. I entertain people; I don’t cure cancer. Staying in my lane keeps the stress down.
Parlé Mag: To date, what has been your greatest career moment?
Cherie Johnson: Hugging Soleil during the curtain call after the pilot REBOOT! Are you kidding, who gets to go back to a show 38 years later and still LOVE the people you work with? Miracles.
Parlé Mag: Reflecting, when did you first become interested in entering into the realm of entertainment?
Cherie Johnson: Sitting in a director’s chair next to my uncle on the set of Silver Spoons watching Ricky Schroder. I told my Uncle David [Duclon], “I can do that!” But I didn’t give it a thought of being my career Chuckles again I was gonna be an architect! Until my college years, I dropped out and went back to the set of Family Matters and realized acting was it for me. School was never my thing.
Parlé Mag: Do you have any other aspirations maybe even completely away from entertainment?
Cherie Johnson: Yes, I homeschool my daughter because she is very advanced. I aspire to watch her grow into the woman she will become. I also aspire to continue helping people live well from the inside out.
Parlé Mag: Any closing thoughts?
Cherie Johnson: Thank you for growing up with us! It’s such a blessing to have so many friends. We have all grown up together, and to have the opportunity to continue to grow up with all of you – Chapter after Chapter – is an amazing gift. Thank you all for making Punky a culture!
The upcoming “Punky Brewster” reboot is scheduled for NBC’s streaming service, Peacock.
Stay Connected with Cherie Johnson on social media:
Facebook: Cherie Johnson
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