Soleil Moon Frye’s most popular role is Punky from the 1980s series, Punky Brewster, which also starred actor George Gaines as her foster parent. On Monday, Gaines passed away, which prompted Frye to post a fond farewell to her former co-star in her social media accounts.
George Gaines, who played elderly widower Henry Warnimont on Punky Brewster, died in his daughter’s home in North Bend, Washington. Gaines was 98-years-old, as reported in The New York Times.
Frye posted a message on her Twitter account late Tuesday night as a mini-tribute to Gaines. She signed off the message using “Your little Punky.”
The universe just gained a gigantic star. You will be in my heart and soul always & forever.
Your little Punky
RIP George Gaynes
— soleil moon frye (@moonfrye) February 17, 2016
Frye also posted an image on her Instagram account, sharing a photo of her and Gaines in their Punky Brewster characters. Frye left a longer message on the black and white photo, saying that many of her life’s joyous moments included working with Gaines.
Punky Brewster ran from 1984 to 1986 on NBC. Initially, the series had low ratings, despite being a hit among children. The channel decided to cancel the series after two seasons. Columbia Pictures Television picked up the series to for a first-run syndication that lasted from 1987 to 1988.
There was also a cartoon spin-off series titled It’s Punky Brewster, that aired from September 1985 to December 1986. Most of the cast from the original series provided the voice-overs for the animated sitcom.
Soleil Moon Frye was only 7-years-old when she was cast as Penelope “Punky” Brewster, an orphan founded by Henry Warnimount in the apartment building he runs. Henry comes across as a grumpy man, but eventually, Punky wins him over, and throughout the series, he becomes her foster parent before officially adopting her.
Gaines did an interview in 2011, where he talked about his professional career. He mentioned his time on Punky Brewster, and said that his professional relationship with Frye was great, but they only saw each other when they filmed the series. He also mentioned an amusing tidbit that Punky’s dog, Brandon, was given that named after former NBC president, Brandon Tartikoff, who green-lighted the sitcom.
George Gaines had other memorable roles in series and film. The actor starred in the Police Academy movie series as Commander Eric Lassard. He also had a role in the popular soap opera General Hospital as mobster Frank Smith from 1979 to 1980.
Gaines is survived by his wife, Allyn Ann McLerie, a singer, dancer, and actress during her active professional years. The couple had a son, Matt, who died in a car crash in 1989, and a daughter, Iya, who is a lawyer.
After Punky Brewster’s final season, Soleil Moon Frye starred in an ABC pilot, Cadets, in September 1988, but the series was not picked up for a full season. Frye did guest star in multiple sitcoms such as Saved by the Bell, The Wonder Years, and Friends throughout the 1990s.
In 2000, Frye had a role in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch when the sitcom aired on The WB network. Frye played Roxie King, Sabrina’s college roommate. This gave Frye an opportunity to star in a series with one her friends, Melissa Joan Hart, who played Sabrina.
Frye married producer Jason Goldberg in October 1998. The couple have two daughters, Poet Sienna Rose and Jagger Joseph Blue, and one son, Lyric Sonny Roads.
Soleil Moon Frye revealed in November 2015 that she and Goldberg are expecting their fourth child, and made the announcement over Twitter. Frye told People that this pregnancy came at a complete surprise, and that the couple decided to wait until Frye gives birth before finding out the baby’s sex.
[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]