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‘Punky Brewster’ Revival Offers Jasika Nicole A Probability To Showcase Black Queer Love

For greater than a decade, Jasika Nicole has been a prolific presence on tv, with acclaimed performances on “Fringe” and “The Good Physician,” amongst different hit exhibits. Nonetheless, it took the revival of a basic 1980s franchise to ship what might be her most private function to this point. 

The actor seems reverse Soleil Moon Frye and Cherie Johnson in Peabody’s “Punky Brewster,” which debuted final month. Like “Fuller Home” and the “Saved by the Bell” revival, the brand new “Punky Brewster” is fan service for audiences who grew up with the unique, which aired from 1984 to 1988. However with the once-child stars now taking part in grownup variations of their characters, the present’s creators have included trendy themes alongside the nostalgia. 

Midway by the 10-episode season, audiences subtly study that Cherie (Johnson) is queer and in a relationship with a biracial lawyer, Lauren (Nicole). And with out making a gift of spoilers, Lauren appears prone to be granted extra display screen time in Season 2. 

“I’m all the time excited to go in for queer roles,” mentioned the 40-year-old Alabama native, who can also be an illustrator and sculptor. “Traditionally, although, they’ve tended to go to straight actors. It’s like they wish to have a queer storyline represented, however they don’t wish to go too far and make it ‘too homosexual’ or one thing like that. So I wished to make this very, very homosexual. I’m so comfortable ‘Punky Brewster’ is as homosexual as it’s proper now.”  

In an interview with PoliFonics, Nicole spoke about her connection to the “Punky” universe and its emphasis on unconventional households and why she sees taking part in her first queer function as each a duty and knowledgeable milestone. 

What was your relationship with “Punky Brewster” like earlier than you joined the revival? 

I grew up a biracial child in Birmingham, Alabama, so I stood out simply strolling down the road and I hated it. So so as to not stand out, I used to be very by the guide and actually into guidelines and restrictions ― I used to be an actual Cherie, an actual rule follower.

However on the similar time, I admired Punky. There was part of me that felt prefer it was a privilege to have the ability to be Punky, to have the ability to exit and be your personal individual and never care what different individuals thought of you. So now that I’m an grownup, I understand I could be a Punky now. After all I’m additionally a Lauren. (laughs) I’m my very own character within the “Punky”-verse, which is such a thrill to have the ability to say.

Jasika Nicole (proper) stars as Lauren in Peacock’s “Punky Brewster” revival, which premiered Feb. 25.

Each the unique collection and the revival converse to the ability of chosen households. How did that message converse to you as a queer girl?

Throughout the LGBTQ group, chosen household is a large theme in the way in which we dwell our lives, the way in which we create the group of individuals we encompass ourselves with. The unique “Punky” confirmed that households might be whoever makes you are feeling supported, wherever you discover the love. Now that we’ve come again to the present just a few a long time later, we’ve included queer individuals. 

Additionally, Punky and her ex-husband, Travis [played by Freddie Prinze Jr.], are not collectively, however they’re nonetheless buddies and are co-parenting. That’s an enormous approach that households exist at present ― dad and mom won’t dwell in the identical home as their kids. In order that’s simply one other approach we’ve expanded the thought of what a selected household can appear to be. I’m hoping audiences will see this and see themselves in it, whether or not they determine as queer, whether or not they’re married or they’ve gotten divorced. There’s no a technique {that a} household appears to be like anymore. 

What gave you the arrogance to beat the adversity you confronted and succeed as an artist whenever you had been rising up in Alabama?

I had beautiful dad and mom who had been encouraging and supportive. However I nonetheless lived in a spot the place everyone wished to place you right into a field. I went to a largely white college and lived in a largely white neighborhood. I feel whenever you develop up completely different in no matter approach you might be completely different, you study to have compassion for everyone. And I really feel like a variety of queer individuals of coloration, we’ve grown up studying to adapt to our circumstances and discover the humanity in different individuals. Whereas these different individuals who haven’t actually grown up as completely different, it’s like a muscle that they haven’t labored fairly often so that they don’t perceive the way to discover the common truths in people who find themselves completely different from them. 

I can’t think about having gotten to this place with out having skilled every part that I did, for good or dangerous. It’s fascinating to be an grownup and look again and say, “Oh, that wasn’t nice” or “That wasn’t wholesome.” Once you’re a child, you’re simply attempting to outlive it. You don’t actually take into consideration how traumatizing or scary one thing may be till you’re an grownup, however I don’t really feel these issues anymore. I really feel very comfy with who I’m and the way I current myself to the world, so I suppose it wasn’t all horrible. 

“There’s no a technique {that a} household appears to be like anymore,” Nicole (proper) mentioned of the message behind the “Punky Brewster” revival.

Lauren is your first queer function. As a queer individual your self, did you are feeling any duty to painting her in any particular approach due to that?

As a child within the ’80s, I didn’t have individuals I may look to and see what [my] life may appear to be. I didn’t understand, till I used to be an grownup and I had come out, that I may have been the illustration I wanted as a child. In order that’s why I really feel like I do have a duty. I wish to really feel pleased with the characters I play, and I would like different individuals to really feel proud, too, as a result of there will not be a variety of Black queer ladies on this trade. I’ve been one in all a handful for a very very long time.

I not too long ago got here to the choice that I don’t wish to play a police officer, as a result of I don’t help the narrative that the police drive could be a drive for good. I feel there are good people who find themselves law enforcement officials [but] they’re unable to alter the way in which the establishment works single-handedly. 

I would like Black and brown viewers members seeing me and understanding I’m attempting to be a very good illustration of them and their values and what’s essential to these communities. And if it’s just a few model of me who’s residing in Birmingham, Alabama, who’s seeing themselves for the primary time … I can’t inform you how highly effective that’s to me. It’s a duty I’m comfortable to have. 

Assuming “Punky Brewster” will get picked up for Season 2, how would you want Cherie and Lauren to proceed to evolve as a pair?

It could be actually thrilling to comply with a same-sex couple as they attempt to undertake. That will make sense inside the “Punky” universe, clearly, and it’s all the time completely different when same-sex {couples} are doing issues many heterosexual {couples} do. I’d have an interest to know if issues stand in the way in which of Cherie and Lauren attempting to deliver a child into their life.

As thrilled as I’m to see a queer couple normalized on a household present like “Punky Brewster,” I feel it’s essential to essentially speak concerning the issues that make us completely different. Queer individuals already know what it’s wish to be queer, however straight individuals don’t all the time perceive that. In order that’s my want.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size. 

“As thrilled as I’m to see a queer couple normalized on a household present like ‘Punky Brewer,’ I feel it’s essential to essentially speak concerning the issues that make us completely different,” mentioned Nicole (center, with co-stars Cherie Johnson and Soleil Moon Frye).