Posted on: July 7, 2023 Posted by: LeKeisha Edwards Comments: 0

Writer: LeKeisha Edwards

Cherie Johnson landed her first acting job at six years old, playing the best friend of Punky on the hit sitcom, Punky Brewster, on NBC in 1984. Johnson’s character, named “Cherie” on the show, along with actress Soleil Moon Frye, who played the high-spirited, “Punky,” had become many children’s best friends on TV. Little did we know just how far the friendship would go.

Johnson was later cast as Laura Winslow’s best friend, Maxine, on the celebrated 90’s sitcom, Family Matters. ABC was the place to be on Friday nights offering incredible blocks of family-friendly shows that many rushed home to see. That era of television was special and set a precedent that Johnson was there for.

 

Cherie Johnson

A Pittsburgh native, Johnson moved to Los Angeles at six. Her uncle, acclaimed producer David W. Duclon, known for sitcoms like The Jeffersons and Silver Spoons, found in his niece inspiration for the creation of Punky.

Johnson has added producing to her repertoire, with close to 14 films under her belt, including the romantic comedy, I Do…I Did! Her podcast, Cherie’s World, features guests like Tamar Braxton and discusses critical subjects such as human trafficking and depression.

In this interview, Johnson reflects on acting, becoming a nutritionist, and her decision to homeschool her daughter.

 

Soleil Moon Frye (Punky) and Cherie Johnson (Cherie) in the 80’s sitcom, ‘Punky Brewster.’

Your friendships on-screen with Punky (Soleil Moon Frye) and Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams), translated into real life and you all are still friends today. When Peacock  announced a reboot of ‘Punky,’ what was the experience like filming with Soleil Moon Frye again?

Cherie Johnson: It felt like coming home. It is something I will hold close to my heart always. In that moment, I realized you can truly manifest anything you want in life.

The reboot included Freddie Prinze Jr., and Quinn Copeland who played Izzy, a foster child Punky adopts as her character was adopted. The original was nominated for three Emmy’s and the reboot earned Quinn an Emmy for her portrayal of Izzy.

I was so proud of Quinn! I wasn’t able to make it to the Emmy’s that year, but Soleil sent me a clip and I was crying and cheering! Her win was a true testament to the show’s value and meaningfulness.

Family Matters is still a staple in homes today. Tell me about working with such an incredible cast?

We were like a family! We were in people’s homes for nine seasons as families grew up with us! 

 

Cherie Johnson, upper left, Kellie Shanygn Williams, as Maxine in the hit show, ‘Family Matters,’ Kellie Shanygne Williams, upper right, Jaleel White, center, Darius McCrary, lower left, Shawn Harrison, lower right (Photo Courtesy: Fandom).
Cherie Johnson, far right, as Maxine on the hit show, ‘Family Matters.’

Were you surprised by the development of Maxine and Waldo’s (played by Shawn Harrison) relationship?

It was so cool seeing Maxine and Waldo become boyfriend and girlfriend! I love Shawn Harrison, and we are still friends  doing food tours that we upload to our socials! 

As a producer, what do you enjoy most, and any new projects?

Producing came at the right time, because I had begun to lose a little passion for acting. Writing the film, I Do…I Did! was my therapy. My joy was brought back to entertainment.  An upcoming project that I am excited about is called The Block Trilogies

How did you become a nutritionist?

My mother owned a gym called Future Shape and I would help with coordinating meal plans. In high school, I earned credits taking nutrition classes and became certified at 18. A friend and I own a wellness center in Florida called KIAN (Keeping It All Natural) offering holistic, natural products and services natural.

 

Wild Cherry Hair Products by Cherie Johnson.

 

Did your interests in well-being lead you to create Wild Cherry Hair Products?

Yes! Certain products and fragrances we love include chemicals that are not good for us. Wild Cherry Hair Products are all natural, lightly scented, with ingredients you can pronounce. 

What is the Cherie’s World Podcast featuring your sidekick, Courtney Blackmon, known for?

We highlight Black excellence speaking with young authors, Black entrepreneurs, and talk about subjects that impact everyone. One of the most heartbreaking discussions we had was with a father who lost his daughter through human trafficking. These stories must be heard. 

Speaking of young authors, what inspired your daughter to write the book, Cucumbers are Delicious?

At about two years old while eating cucumber slices she said to me, “Mommy, cucumbers are delicious!” Her love for cucumbers continued and she wanted to write a book that explores the fun of growing and eating them!

Many parents have decided to forego public school for homeschooling, including you. How were you led to homeschool your daughter?

I thought of my own school experiences and how many schools build curriculums that promote systematic racism that play on the self-esteem of the Brown and Black child. I remember refusing to color the Mayflower and I got in trouble for it with my teacher.

My grandmother was Native American and had taught true stories of our people and how Columbus could not discover a land that people were already inhabiting. By participating in the coloring of the Mayflower, I would be celebrating the genocide of my people.

I want my daughter to have an education that is diverse, robust, and truthful and homeschooling allows that. Hiding the truth about the horrible past does not help us understand the disparities suffered today.

 

Cherie Johnson

What advice would you give to families today considering homeschooling?

The biggest challenge for me is the mom-teacher balance because you are with your child 24 hours a day as opposed to them going off to school and returning home hours later. I remember there is a time and place to be mom and a time and place to be a teacher. The positive is watching her drive her own education as we tailor it around her interests. 

 

In closing, what matters most to you and what do you see for your future?

More producing projects and compelling interviews on the podcast. I have written a few books as well including my book, 101 Reasons to Eat Me, a fun play on words as the book focuses on delicious reasons and ways to eat cherries like my name! Overall, I just want to raise a happy child that goes after her dreams and fulfills her destiny.