It's "like a dream I never even knew that I wanted," Johnson told PEOPLE during a virtual set visit

By Breanne L. Heldman
February 12, 2021 02:30 PM
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For Soleil Moon Frye and Cherie Johnson, returning to the world of Punky Brewster for the upcoming revival was a powerful pinch-me moment.

"It's surreal and so real," Frye told PEOPLE during a virtual visit to the set (thus the cardboard cutout of this author in the video above). "For me, Punky and Punky Power is such a part of my heart and my life. I rediscover so much about myself through her, so it's been a dream come true."

"It's magical," Johnson added. "I'm 6. Six years old, all over again, sitting next to my best friend."

The pair were just kids when they starred in the original series together, which aired from 1984-1988 and followed Punky (Frye), a smart and funny young girl being raised by her foster parent, Henry (George Gaynes). Now, in the revival premiering Feb. 25 on Peacock, Punky is a single mom of three and meets Izzy (Quinn Copeland), a young girl who reminds her of herself.

Punky Brewster
Credit: Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Punky, now in her 40s, is a professional photographer, newly divorced from her husband (played by Freddie Prinze Jr.) and still very close with her childhood bestie, Cherie (Johnson). And she's working on rediscovering her Punky Power, something that's remained a part of Frye's life through the years.

"Punky Power is such a part of my heart and soul," said Frye, 44, who is a mom of four. "I think there's been so many times throughout life that I have had those moments that we all do, where we have our insecurities or we question things and maybe we sometimes lose ourselves to some extent, and Punky Power has been my way of finding my way back home."

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In discussing their friendship, which has spanned four decades, Johnson, 45 and a mom of two, gets emotional.

Recalling her birthday spent on set, Johnson said Frye asked her, "How do you feel? Are you having a good day?" Tearing up just thinking about it, Johnson said she responded, "I'm standing in a treehouse with you. That's like a dream I never even knew that I wanted."

Punky Brewster "set visit" photo
A cutout of PEOPLE staffer Breanne L. Heldman on the set of Punky Brewster with Cherie Johnson and Soleil Moon Frye.
| Credit: Peacock

The ladies also talked about sharing old episodes of the show with their children. Johnson said her daughter talks about how Punky looks like Frye's young sons, Lyric, 7, and Story, 4.

"The boys are super into [the show] now, and it's so fun to watch it through their eyes," Frye said. "I actually watched the first few episodes not too long ago, and I was crying. They were emotional watching me [be] emotional. It just strikes such a chord."

"I love this show so much and it's so much more than a show for us. It's our lives," she continued. "I believe in healing through laughter and sharing stories and dealing with topics that are real and can create family conversations where there can be an open dialogue. So I feel incredibly proud to be a part of the Punky Brewster family."

The 10-episode Punky Brewster revival premieres Feb. 25 on Peacock.