She Played Freddie on "A Different World." See Cree Summer Now at 52.
THE ACTOR TOOK AN ALMOST 25-YEAR BREAK FROM LIVE-ACTION ROLES.
Cree Summer's first major live-action role was playing the quirky and good-natured Freddie Brooks, a college friend of Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) on the NBC Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World. But that likely wasn't the first time you heard her voice on TV. Summer's first credit was playing Penny in the animated series, Inspector Gadget, a few years prior. In fact, the actor is such a legend in voice work that she went more than 20 years without appearing onscreen as herself—all while staying incredibly busy with animated characters. Read on to find out what Summer has been doing since attending the fictional Hillman college with the rest of the gang and why she made the return to live-action acting after so much time away.
READ THIS NEXT: She Played Whitley on A Different World. See Jasmine Guy Now at 60.
She's one of the most in-demand voice actors in the business.
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Since she began voice acting in 1983, Summer has lent her distinctive voice to hundreds of characters on TV, in movies, and in video games. Her most well-known roles include Susie Carmichael in Rugrats, Elmyra Diff in Tiny Toon Adventures, and Peabo in The Proud Family, among many, many others. Basically, if you've watched any cartoon in the past two decades, you've likely heard Summer's voice. She's currently involved in The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, a reboot of the early 2000s Disney channel series about a Black teen girl and her family. Summer also voices Madame Xanadu, Mary West, and Mattie Harcourt in Young Justice and has two more voice projects in the works: The Magician's Elephant, set to be released in 2023, and the TV series Star Wars: Detours.
It's important for Summer to voice Black characters. She said in a 2018 interview with Great Big Story, "I know for Susie [on The Rugrats], one of the most important things was that she sound smart and that she's very well-spoken because there were not a lot of brown girls in cartoons. As a matter of fact, there still aren't."
She's taken on more live-action roles, as well.
Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images
While her career is still dominated by voice work, Summer hasn't totally sworn off live-action. One of those recent roles is Lenny, one of Pamela Adlon's character Sam's friends, on Better Things. Adlon, who is also showrunner on the series, told Salon in 2019 that it was important to her to work with people that she knew—so much so that she talked Summer into the part.
"My friend Cree Summer she hadn't worked in 25 years on camera," Adlon said. (After four episodes of the show Courthouse in 1995, the actor largely stayed in the sound booth until Better Things in 2019.) "Which is so crazy, because I literally pulled her out of mothballs. It was, like, an amazing [expletive] thing."
Other recent live-action roles for Summer include two episodes of Queen Sugar in 2019 and 2020 and a guest role as a vampire aerobics instructor/cult leader in What We Do in the Shadows in 2021.
She's a newly single mother of two.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
For the past 10 years, Summer was married to Angelo Pullen, co-founder of the financial services app Able, but she revealed in a May 2022 interview with StyleLikeU that they had recently split. The former couple share two daughters, Brave, born in 2011, and Hero, born in 2013.
"When that relationship ended, I became a single mother," Cree told StyleLikeU. "Boy, greatest fear of my life."
The proud mom posts about her kids often on Instagram, including a funny video in which Brave takes her mother to task for throwing away some of her kindergarten artwork.
For more celebrity updates sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
She's also a musician.
sign up for our daily newsletter.
In addition to being an actor, Summer is also a rock and soul musician. She was very close to Lenny Kravitz, former co-star Bonet's ex-husband, so much so that he produced her 1999 album Street Faërie and she later toured with him as an opening act. The video for her song "Savior Self" stars Bonet and Kravitz's daughter, Zoë.
On her social media platforms, Summer often posts videos of herself playing guitar with her daughters. She credits Frank Zappa as one of her major influences, and in 2008, she paid tribute to the musician by performing a cover of "Dirty Love" with his sons Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa on The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA Birthday Bundle. On top of her music and acting work, her family, and her hobbies, Summer is also an activist who posts her support for Black Lives Matter, abortion rights, and other progressive causes on social media.
READ THIS NEXT: See Kelly From Married… with Children Now at 50.