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Soleil Moon Frye’s doc ‘Kid 90’ is a time capsule for Gen X

March 11, 2021 GMT
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Soleil Moon Frye poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on March 8, 2021 to promote her documentary“Kid 90," premiering Friday, March 12 on Hulu. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)
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Soleil Moon Frye poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on March 8, 2021 to promote her documentary“Kid 90," premiering Friday, March 12 on Hulu. (AP Photo/Jae Hong)

NEW YORK (AP) — One thing to understand about Soleil Moon Frye is that she is a historian of her life.

While many of us may have saved diaries from our past, Frye can do you one better. She has diaries, videos and voicemails. It’s all documented and recorded.

Frye says occasionally over the years she would pick up a diary and “skim through” and “then put it back.” She stashes her keepsakes away until she’s ready, sometimes decades later, with fresh eyes and a clear head.

Such is the case with “Kid 90,” a new documentary available on Hulu Friday.

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Soleil, now 44, who is best-known for playing the plucky, mismatched star of “Punky Brewster,” only a few years ago felt a pull to open the vault to her teen years — coming of age in the 1990s in Los Angeles and then moving to New York for college.

She knew she had enough for a documentary and at first she didn’t want to be in it at all.

“When I started the doc, it wasn’t meant to be about me. I tried to make it about everybody but me,” she said in a recent interview.

When watching, viewers will see she really did know everybody. It’s a who’s-who of young Hollywood at the time. There’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Connelly, Brian Austin Green, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jenny Lewis and even Charlie Sheen. At one point Frye listens to a voicemail from a sweet-sounding Mark Wahlberg and she remarks she’s nervous to call him back.

Frye cherishes watching them all just being regular kids in the days before TMZ, camera phones and social media.

“We were really able to live our lives with a sense of privacy, and not under the microscope. We were able to have a lot of fun. I mean, yes, I had fun and experimented, but there’s also so much innocence there,” said Frye, who added there were hours of documentary footage of the kids just going to the movies.

There’s also pain. Frye’s friend group experienced an extraordinary amount of loss. She was close with both actors Justin Pierce and Jonathan Brandis, who each died by suicide, and Harold Hunter who died from a cocaine-induced heart attack.

“These were not superficial relationships, these were deep, meaningful relationships with my friends that were family,” she says, adding that she still considers Brandis one of her best friends. “I look at these relationships and they formed so much of who I am. I think that is probably why on a subconscious level, in a lot of ways, I wasn’t ready to face it. It was so painful.”

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Frye also had to confront some past sexual experiences that bring up questions of consent. There’s a recorded phone call where she asks an unnamed male why she blacked out when she wasn’t drinking, and writes of an altercation she wasn’t ready for.

Frye says she’s still processing those experiences but more than anything she wanted to forgive the girl who blamed herself at the time.

“I think in some way — the teen me — felt responsible for these things.” She says she needed to “forgive the teenager in me that perhaps felt like she had put herself in certain situations.” It also compelled her to talk with her two daughters about the complexities of sex.

The film also shows the torment that Frye went through when she began developing. There were cruel nicknames and awkward TV appearances that focused on her changing body. She ended up having a breast reduction at 16 and was interviewed for the cover of People magazine.

“As I went through puberty, I was really excited and embracing it. It was the world around me that felt so bizarre,” says Frye. “I think so often it’s like we want little kids to stay little kids forever and there’s this idea or this concept around this one size fits all. Well, one size doesn’t fit all. One kid can wear a tank top and it’s accepted. Another wears a tank top and they’re shamed for it.”

Frye says this process of looking back led to a real discovery of self-love. She’s embracing her past, present and looking forward to the future.

A “ Punky Brewster ” revival dropped its first season on Peacock in February. Frye plays a grown-up Brewster who is a single mom. (Freddie Prinze Jr. plays her ex-husband.) She’s still as sunny as she was as a kid. Her longtime BFF, Cherie Johnson, is back, too.

“I love Punky so much,” said Frye. “She is the superpower that I lean into.”

As for the future, Frye has more documentaries planned, and naturally has material she’s saved already.

“I love ‘The Up Series’ and the idea of of these documentaries that span multiple decades.”

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Follow Alicia Rancilio at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar