Adding to the “this-is-exactly-the-show-we-need-right-now” list comes the reboot of Punky Brewster, premiering on Peacock this Thursday. The all-star cast includes Soleil Moon Frye reprising her role as “Punky,” Cherie Johnson, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Jasika Nicole, who plays Lauren, a self-assured lawyer whose relationship with Cherie develops throughout the season. We recently caught up with Nicole—who has a not-so-small side gig of being a fashion and sewing blogger (almost everything in her eco-friendly closet is an item she made, including her shoes and purses)—in Los Angeles to see what the season has in store.
What is it like being part of such an iconic show?
I would say it is pretty exciting, because I was an audience member of the original show! [laughs] Reboots are obviously becoming very popular and, initially, my attitude was, “Why can’t we make some new stuff?” It wasn’t until Punky Brewster came along that I realized what a personal connection many of us have with these shows—we grow up with them, and it’s fun when we get to have a similar experience as adults and see where the characters we loved when we were younger ended up. There’s this part of you that feels like you’ve moved through the world together. It’s almost like you’re having a high school reunion—except one that’s way more exciting and not as traumatizing! It’s a special treat as an actor to get to be a part of the show that you watched when you were kid—and not because I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid—I was just watching a show because I related to it in a lot of ways. It’s pretty special.
Can you share anything about the energy on set—was it different because of COVID?
It was such a strange production not only because of COVID, but because it was my first job since the pandemic. I will say that it was a very, very safe set to be on. I was extremely trepidatious about working, obviously; I didn’t want to get sick and I didn’t want to get other people sick, but we had a lot of COVID precautions. I was thankful for them, but it does make working strange. I realized that one thing I’ve always taken for granted in this line of work is that, when you join a project, you are introduced to this whole family of people—the cast, the crew, and everyone working behind the scenes—and you really get to know them. You forge friendships with these people, which is difficult to do when you’re wearing a mask and a face shield. You can’t see people’s lips, so you can’t read their lips and you cannot hear them very well. It’s a strange way to have to communicate.
So that relationship-building that you have when you first join a set, it was just not there for me in the beginning. It didn’t really show up until the second episode I was on. That was after we had filmed for a bit…because of course, we film [the actual scene] without our masks on. That meant that I knew these people for a week and had no idea what their smiles looked like! It was so weird. It really put us out of sorts but, at the same time, I think that it made us bond together in a stronger way— because for most of us, this was the only social life we had gotten to experience in months. When it was all over, we felt more like a family than with any other show that I’ve ever been a part of, which was great. I think everybody was just excited to be working in a safe space and we were generally really, really thrilled to be there.
Are there any go-to products you used on-set?
I have super sensitive skin and I have actually been making my own beauty products for several years now. One of the things about being in a hair and makeup trailer on a production is that they always have new products to show you. I’m always hearing, “Oh you should try this face cream, you should try this.” I want to so badly be one of those people that has this cool, intense 15-step skin-care ritual before I go to bed at night, but that is not what my face wants me to do. My face wants like three products and that is it. But it’s a good thing to learn how to listen to your body and to pay attention to what it needs—instead of just taking all the products that the industry wants to throw at you, because there’s a lot. There’s a lot to rifle through. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to a place where I can say, “I really appreciate your beautiful $200 facial cream, that’s wonderful, but I am using shea butter on my face and that’s it.” [laughs]
You’re very into sustainability with the fashion you create, does that carry over to your beauty routine and what you make?
It does. I do try and only apply products on my face that I know where they came from. In general, for me, simpler 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 if they open up while I’m cleaning my face. It’s amazing and very gentle. After that, I spritz some plain witch hazel—which costs like $1.30 at the drugstore—with some lavender essential oils in there. It’s super, super cheap, but it’s a really great toner, for my skin at least. Then, I use a lotion that I make myself that has shea butter, vitamin E, more lavender oil and some rosehip oil. Basically, you melt the shea butter and any other moisturizer that you want to put in there. You put it in the fridge, you cool it for a bit, and then you whip it into a really airy cream in your stand mixer or your hand mixer, whatever you have. I use that morning and night, whenever I wash my face. And I always use sunscreen during the day. That’s pretty much my beauty routine.
Punky has a set place in the ’80s history books. 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 at the time! It took me a few decades to come back around to it and be like, “I can appreciate these things.” I think what I like most about the ’80s is the dynamic colors. We were so shameless in terms of putting clashy prints together—and I’m so into that look these days with my own fashion. Beauty-wise…I hope big hair makes a comeback. I guess it’s because I have naturally big, curly hair and it feels like it’s a good time for me to not have to worry about taming it down and fighting the frizz. I have always, always loved big hair.
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