Cree Summer is an American-Canadian actress and singer. She is best known for her role as college student Winifred “Freddie” Brooks on the NBC sitcom A Different World. As a voice actress, Summer has provided the voices for Susie Carmichael on Rugrats and All Grown Up, Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Numbuh 5 in Codename: Kids Next Door, and countless others in animation and video games.
Have you found any characters that were harder to connect to than others?
I don’t know. I think that you get the part because there’s some part of you that connects to the character. Sometimes I think it’s challenging when I do a part that’s alien or otherworldly, like Atlantean or Ewokean.
If Freddie Brooks (A Different World) had her own animated series, what would it be about?
It would probably be about world issues but in a very funny way. Like Lenny Bruce in my beloved Drawn Together. She would be a super powered bitch who thinks she knows everything. (laughs).
How do you personally feel about Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire), the best Disney princess in all the land, being constantly left out of promotions and advertising?
“I just feel like it’s bullshit. I feel like Kida gets the crap end of the stick, she’s in the back of the bus. She’s just a beautiful representation of powerful womanhood, and being a brown girl. It bums me out because Kida is a princess and she’ll always be a princess. I think there’s something to it too for all of us brown little freaks. I think it makes us push a little more and realize that we still have some fighting to do.”
Are you finding more roles that are more dynamic or more difficult to take on as you move through your career?
I think what happens when you have a career that spans for so long… I’m a little older and I started really young. So I think if you keep evolving then so will your characters. They’ll continue to be challenging, otherwise, you’re in trouble. (laughs).
How was your transition from working on-screen to voice acting?
The good news is I didn’t have to make a transition. I actually started as a voice actress and an on-screen actress simultaneously. My father (who recently passed) was a big voice actor and actor in Canada, so I really got my start through nepotism. I think because I became known for a different world, people didn’t know that I had been doing voice overs since I was a child.
In your perfect world, what would the representation of black women in film and television look like?
I think in a perfect world it wouldn’t just be about black women. I grew up on an Indian reservation for the Plains Cree Indians. I think it would be about all indigenous peoples, males and females, all the freaks. I just want to see us represented as kind humans. To see people be all-inclusive earthlings would be really beautiful. I think that the problems come when we just focus on who is being left out vs who should be included.
Do you have any rituals before you take on a role?
(laughs) Yes, I like to have some Jack Daniels, have some vodka… just kidding. The only ritual is to just prepare for the role. I just take my time and then when I get to the job I can perform and riff and improvise. The only way to do all of that is to just practice.
What was the moment in your career, when you truly felt like this is what I’m supposed to be doing?
That’s a great question. I think sometimes when you start out as a child you can take it or granted. I think that might be a harsh way of putting it, but I came into the industry as a young girl, so it was fun to have my own money for a bike… I remember being at a meeting with Tress MacNeille and she did like fifteen voices, and I had a conscious thought of “I want to be good at this.”
What do you think about conventions and how the community has become inclusive?
I always say, “god bless the freaks.” I’m particularly tickled at MomoCon because there are so many brown freaks walking around. I feel like I’m walking amongst my tribe. It’s something that makes me feel safe. I’ve always felt safe around the freaks and I think that we shall inherit the earth and it’s going to be real hard to be a square soon.