Fitting with her celestial middle name, Soleil Moon Frye is entering a new phase. Her newfound self-love, acceptance and forgiveness come after from reviewing audio recordings, video tapes and diaries from her adolescence and interviewing fellow child actors, like “Saved by the Bell” star Mark-Paul Gosselaar and “Beverly Hills, 90210” alum Brian Austin Green, for her new documentary “Kid 90” (streaming now on Hulu).
“It’s been such a life-changing experience,” Frye, 44, says of the coming-of-age doc, which she directs. It covers ages 11 to 19 for the actress, who embodied the vibrant “Punky Brewster” for the ’80s sitcom and its Peacock revival that debuted last month. “As a teenager in the ’90s, I carried a video camera with me everywhere I went,” she says. “I started keeping a diary from the time I was 5, then an audio recorder at 12 and then my video camera. And then I just locked it away for 20 years. About four years ago, I started to wonder if life had really happened the way that I remembered it.”
“Kid 90” captures Frye trying to find her footing as an actress after “Punky,” experimenting with drugs, grieving young friends gone too soon and swooning over A-list crushes. Viewers are treated to a voicemail from Mark Wahlberg, which a young Frye was “so nervous” to return, and messages from a “Charles,” who the world knows as Charlie Sheen.
In the documentary, Frye revisits a journal entry from Dec. 18, 1994, the day she lost her virginity to the “Two and a Half Men” star. “It’s been the most strange and incredible day ever,” she reads. “He’s somebody I’ve had a crush on for years. He’s a person that intrigues me and excites me.” She equated the actor, 11 years her senior, to her “Mr. Big,” Chris Noth’s “Sex and the City” character.
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"Punky Brewster" star Soleil Moon Frye poses with actors Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg. (Photo: Courtesy of Soleil Moon Frye)
Frye remembers their relationship fondly to USA TODAY.
“He was really kind to me, and I can only speak to my experience and my story with him,” she says. “In opening the diaries and reading back the diary entries, it was very sweet and he had been really kind to me and and treated me really beautifully. And for all these years afterwards, in some of the most pivotal moments in my life, has checked in and (lent) his support.”
For “Kid 90,” Frye also revisits her negative interactions with men and unwanted attention because of her large chest. Before her breast reduction at 15, Frye says she was nearly an E-cup and remembers during her early teen years “men treated me more like a woman and not a 13-year-old.”
“It’s hard when you’ve got boobs and can’t work in this business,” a young Frye shares in the film. “It’s really hard. I just want people to see me for the person I am inside.”
Having that experience motivates Frye to shine a light on young girls being sexualized today. She shares four children – two daughters and two sons – with producer Jason Goldberg.
“It’s so fascinating because watching back the tapes and and seeing the 12-year-old little girl in me,” she says today, ” who was going to summer camp and wanting to be a kid and then having guys stare at my breasts, and the objectification that was going on around me, and then seeing how relevant it is to today and the way in which young people are objectified, and it’s under such a magnifying glass now of filters and social media, I really think to myself, ‘Wow, we have to really have this conversation and start talking about it more.'”
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Frye also opens up about being preyed upon by men in her latest project. In one instance, she’s unable to recall what happened while hanging out with a male, though she only drank ginger ale. She also shares a nonconsensual sexual interaction at 17. When she told the man she wasn’t ready for sex, he ignored her, and forcibly thrust himself inside.
Her young self placed the blame on her own actions. “He asked if I would say he raped me, but I wouldn’t. I was also to blame for my forwardness,” a choked up Frye says, reading from a diary in the doc.
Today she is still trying to come to terms with those moments, which she says are “still raw.”
“The biggest thing that has has come out of it for me is forgiving the little girl inside,” she says,”that felt like she had to bottle it all up and keep it inside and that felt somehow shame associated with it, or that perhaps she was too forward – just all of these things that as a teenager, I wondered, ‘Had I put myself in these situations?'”
“Also, in looking at the entirety of my life: the pain, the joy, the love,” she adds. “From an early age, I was taught that you take your pain and you turn it into art and your scars can help build your character. So for me, every moment in time has brought me to here, right now. And to be able to share this, and to be able to talk to my daughters about it, it’s been really enlightening for me.”
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