Sifting through old photos and recordings inspired the star of ‘Punky Brewster’ (now revived on Peacock) to direct Hulu’s ‘Kid 90,’ executive produced by Sean Penn along with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, about her youth.
Four years ago, Soleil Moon Frye cracked open what she calls her vault, a collection of Tupperware containers filled with journals, photos, ephemera and hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings.
Moon Frye, 44, wasn’t sure what she’d discover by digging through the items that had been in storage 20-plus years or how it would make her feel. Especially because so much of her life had been documented since the age of 7, when she was cast on Punky Brewster, a role that made her a beloved child star and part of a peer group that navigated fame eons before social media. “I had such a joyful, beautiful, happy life in so many ways,” says Moon Frye, “and then there were experiences that were incredibly painful. I truly opened Pandora’s box.”
At age 14, after receiving a video camera, Moon Frye carried it everywhere, pointing it at the faces of friends like Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Will Smith, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Brian Austin Green and Stephen Dorff, while capturing trips to Magic Mountain and adventures on mushrooms.
Some of those videos are now part of a documentary she directed, kid 90, that hits Hulu on March 12, with DiCaprio’s Appian Way team (Jennifer Davisson and Philip Watson) listed as executive producers. “We were just a group of real friends who had very authentic relationships and incredible adventures,” says the mother of four who also stars on Peacock’s Punky Brewster revival. In kid 90, Moon Frye doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects including drug use, sexual assault, suicide (close friend Jonathan Brandis hanged himself in 2003) and her breast-reduction surgery. Revisiting her youth — as seen in the images she shares here — was life-changing. “It makes me super emotional because reliving it transformed my relationships, my marriage, everything,” she says. “I believe that I had left this chronological blueprint as a way for me to find my way back home.”
This story first appeared in the March 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.